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Food Safety Focus (118th Issue, May 2016) – Food Incident Highlight

Mussels Contaminated with Diarrhetic Shellfish Toxins

In March, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) was notified by the Australian authorities that mussels harvested from Spring Bay, Tasmania, Australia were under recall due to the detection of unsatisfactory levels of diarrhetic shellfish toxins (DSTs). The CFS then banned the import into and sale within Hong Kong of all mussels harvested from the area to protect the local population from possible diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP).

DSTs are naturally occurring marine toxins produced by algae. Shellfish are filter feeders. Especially during or shortly after algal blooms, shellfish may accumulate DSTs reaching a level that can make people sick. The main symptoms of DSP are diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, which usually occur between 30 minutes and a few hours after consuming contaminated shellfish. Affected persons usually recover within 2-3 days.

DSTs are heat-stable and cannot be destroyed through cooking. To prevent DSP, remove the viscera of the shellfish before cooking, avoid consuming the cooking sauce and eat only a small amount of shellfish in one meal.