State warnings of toxins in some crab

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- State officials are warning that the guts of crab taken in certain parts of the state could lead to deadly paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP.

They also reiterated a long-standing caution that mussels and clams should be eaten only if harvested from beaches approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

People who harvest crab in the vicinity of Kodiak Island and along the Alaska Peninsula south of Cape Kumlik, as well as bairdi crab from the Bering Sea, should remove the viscera before cooking and eating the meat, the DEC said this week.

Toxins that can lead to PSP have been found in those locations, the agency said.

Commercial crabbers also must remove the guts of crab taken in those places before they sell it, the DEC said.

The agency had required the commercial crabbers to test for PSP-causing toxins before selling crab. But the level of toxins has been so consistent over a number of years that the DEC recently relaxed the testing requirement, it said.

''We concluded that testing is no longer necessary for crab harvested in Alaska,'' said Kristin Ryan, a coordinator for the DEC's Division of Environmental Health. ''We'll still, however, take samples periodically to determine if PSP levels are changing.''

Seafood lovers should know that, besides crab, mussels and clams from untested beaches can be dangerous any time, the DEC said. Eat shellfish only from state-tested beaches, the agency said.

Commercially grown and harvested clams, mussels, crab, shrimp and other shellfish available in grocery stores and restaurants are tested regularly before marketing and therefore safe to eat, Ryan said.

''Their supplies must come from tested beaches, and are also randomly sampled for PSP,'' he said.

PSP, which can lead to fatal respiratory paralysis, occurs widely in the state and strikes a few Alaskans each year. Symptoms may appear soon after indigestion. First symptoms include tingling or numbness in lips and tongue, then in fingertips and toes.

The PSP toxin comes from algae, a food source for shellfish. -

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