You can eat shellfish in any month with an “r” in it, right? Well, just consider this the month of “Mach.” According to the California Department of Public Health, mussels, clams and whole scallops on Marin County beaches contain toxins right now.
It’s still safe to eat commercially produced shellfish from the county, because shellfish from certified harvesters and dealers are subject to frequent testing. Just forget about prying a bushel of mussels off the rocks for your own dinner.
While dangerous levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins have only been detected in mussels, clams and scallops may also pose a health risk, the agency says.
The warning adds to the annual mussel quarantine that was extended on October 31, 2012, for Del Norte and Humboldt counties and remains in effect.
Here’s what happens to you if you eat a toxic mussel, according to the health department:
PSP toxins affect the central nervous system, producing a tingling around the mouth and fingertips within a few minutes to a few hours after eating toxic shellfish.
These symptoms are typically followed by loss of balance, lack of muscular coordination, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing. In severe poisonings, complete muscular paralysis and death from asphyxiation can occur. Cooking does not destroy the toxin.
You can learn more form the CDPH’s toll-free “Shellfish Information Line” at (800) 553-4133.
Or visit the CDPH Marine Biotoxins-Mussels Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Web page.