Health Canada

Health Canada

March 19, 2009 14:47 ET

Information Update: Health Canada Updates Advice to Canadians on Consumption of Lobster Tomalley

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 19, 2009) - Health Canada is issuing updated consumption advice for tomalley from lobsters harvested during the late Fall-early Winter 2008 lobster fishing season because natural toxins can sometimes be found in this organ.

New information supplied to Health Canada by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) indicates that a very small number of lobsters harvested during this period may have levels of paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) in the tomalley that could represent a health risk to consumers. Lobsters currently available on the market are likely to have been harvested during this fishing season.

While there have been no confirmed cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning from consuming lobster tomalley, Health Canada is updating its advice on lobster tomalley consumption to further protect consumers.

Health Canada recommends that:

- children not eat lobster tomalley.

- adults restrict their consumption of lobster tomalley to no more than the amount from one cooked lobster per day.

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

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, including PSP toxins. Although not widely consumed, tomalley is considered by some to be a delicacy.

PSP toxins are naturally produced by certain species of microscopic marine algae found in coastal waters. The 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.

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be continuing to monitor and assess levels of PSP toxins in lobster tomalley from the upcoming 2009 lobster fishing season in order to determine if further updated advice is necessary. Health Canada will inform Canadians on any new advice as new data becomes available.

More information on paralytic shellfish poisoning in lobster is available at:

- Food Safety Facts on Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/concen/cause/pspe.shtml)

- Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) Biotoxins (http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/contamination/psp-eng.htm)

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