Marine toxins halt shellfish harvest at Scottish site

mussels_blogHigh levels of naturally-occurring toxins at a shellfish harvesting site in Scotland have led to the site’s closure.

About 70 people have reported symptoms that are consistent with diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP), which is caused by the consumption of toxins in the okadaic group. The toxins are produced by the marine dinoflagellates such as Dinophysis, and typically reach higher levels in the summer months. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache and fever.

Officials have linked the cases with the consumption of mussels from the now closed harvest site in Scotland. Unusually high levels of the toxins were detected through routine monitoring after the mussels were harvested. Companies that operate in the area have voluntarily suspended harvesting shellfish from those waters. Additionally, the mussels remaining from the implicated harvest have been disposed of, according to the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Shellfish can become contaminated with toxin as they are filter feeders, meaning they push water through their bodies and filter out algae and other particulates for consumption. If this alga produces toxins, it can build up in shellfish’s tissues. The toxins that cause DSP are not detectable by sight, smell or taste and cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing.

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