Warning on eating poisoned Taranaki shellfish

Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012

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Shellfish on Taranaki's coastline have been found to contain high levels of the poison which left 20 people hospitalised in the Bay of Plenty this week.

The Taranaki District Health Board has warned against eating shellfish collected along the coast between Mohakatino and Motunui after tests revealed levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) that fell above safety limits.

In the Bay of Plenty, 20 people fell ill and 10 were admitted to hospital causing health officials to call the paralytic shellfish outbreak the worst in the region's history.

Yesterday four people were still in hospital, two of them in intensive care.

The Waikato District Health Board has also issued a warning for the area between Mokau and Kawhia-Raglan, and Auckland Regional Public Health Service clinical director Dr Julia Peters has warned people against eating shellfish from the coast between Taranaki and Maunganui Bluff, just north of Dargaville.

The Ministry of Primary Industry limit of PSP is 0.80mg/kg and shellfish collected between Mohakatino and Motunui showed levels of 1.08mg/kg.

In November the TDHB issued the same warning after levels of PSP measured 0.96mg/kg.

Symptoms of PSP include numbness of the mouth, face and extremities, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, dizziness and double vision and in severe cases respiratory failure.

The public are being warned not to consume any form of shellfish including kina, mussels, toheroa, pipis, tuatua, oysters and cockles.

Cooking the shellfish does not remove the toxin, the TDHB said.

Paua, crab and crayfish can still be eaten if their guts are completely removed before cooking.

Toxins build up in the gut and if it is not removed its contents could contaminate the meat during cooking.

Anyone who becomes ill after eating shellfish from the area should contact a doctor immediately, advise the public health unit and keep any remaining shellfish. Warning signs are in place in all known affected areas.

The New Plymouth District Council has also issued a precautionary warning against collecting and eating shellfish from East End and Bell Block beaches and at the Waiwhakaiho River mouth while upgrades to the waste water plant take place.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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