Shellfish lovers have been warned of the dangers of gathering their own batch along the west coast after incidents of food poisoning prompted the Food Safety Authority Ireland to issue an official warning this week.
The FSAI have confirmed that in the past number of weeks there have been over 10 people in Galway, Mayo, and Sligo who have become ill from suspected symptoms of shellfish poisoning. It is thought that these incidents of poisoning are linked to harmful algal blooms that are occuring natural along the west and south west coast of Ireland.
A warning has now been issued asking locals and holidaymakers not to gather and consume their own wild bi-valve shellfish (mussels, oysters, scallops, cockles, and clams ) in these areas. The FSAI has advised consumers to go to reputable commercial producers of shellfish as they operate under a sophisticated national monitoring programme which manages the risks, with test results issued by the Marine Institute on an ongoing basis and a weekly status reprt is provided for bays where commercial harvesting of shellfish has been suspended because of high biotoxin levels.
According to Professor Alan Reilly, FSAI chief executive, some residents and visitors engaged in the recreational gathering of shellfish in the region may be unaware of the dangers of consuming the shellfish they come across on the shoreline.
“Wild shellfish found along the west coast may contain naturally occurring toxins that cannot be removed through cooking alone. Eating shellfish contaminated with these toxins can lead to people suffering nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps. The effects are not life-threatening but can be particularly severe for older people, young children and people who may already be ill from another medical condition.”
The FSAI states that if people do gather their own shellfish they need to be aware of the risks they take and that if harvesting takes place near commercial shellfisheries the technical information from the monitoring programme at www.marine.ie may be useful. Anyone suffering from shellfish poisoning symptoms is advised to contact their local GP. Consumers with food safety queries may contact the Food Safety Advice Line on 1890 33 66 77.