Health Canada

Health Canada

May 05, 2008 14:20 ET

Information Update: Health Canada Advises Canadians to Limit Consumption of Lobster Tomalleys

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 5, 2008) - Health Canada advises Canadians to limit their consumption of lobster tomalleys because a toxin specific to lobster and shellfish, known as paralytic shellfish poison, can sometimes be found in these organs.

This advice does not extend to canned lobster tomalleys because the risk is being controlled during processing. As well, this toxin is normally not detected in lobster meat and so there are no recommended restrictions on the consumption of lobster meat.

The tomalley is the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster. It functions as the liver and pancreas, and much like the liver of other animals, the lobster's tomalley is the natural filter for contaminants. Test results have shown that the tomalley can accumulate contaminants found in the environment. Although not widely consumed, tomalley is considered by some to be a delicacy.

Due to the possible presence of paralytic shellfish poison, Health Canada recommends that:

- Adults should limit consumption of lobster tomalleys to no more than the amount from two lobsters per day;

- Children should limit consumption of lobster tomalleys to no more than the amount from one lobster per day.

This toxin can affect the human nervous system and can be very serious if ingested in large amounts. Symptoms of a mild exposure include a tingling sensation or numbness of the lips shortly after eating. Larger exposures can lead to these symptoms spreading to the arms and legs, headaches, dizziness and nausea, and in rare cases more serious conditions, such as muscular paralysis, respiratory difficulty, choking and even death if medical attention is not received in time. Should you experience any of these symptoms after consuming lobster tomalley, you should immediately consult a health care professional.

It is estimated that there are as many as 13 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

More information on paralytic shellfish poisoning in lobster is available at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Website. (

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