Warning sounded over Dungeness crab toxin

State officials issued a health advisory Tuesday against eating Dungeness and rock crab caught along the California coast from Santa Barbara to the Oregon border due to dangerous levels of a naturally occurring toxin.

According to the California Department of Public Health, recent tests have persistently shown high levels of domoic acid in crab meat and viscera, more commonly known as crab butter.

The accumulation of domoic acid in seafood is a natural phenomena caused by the presence of Pseudo-nitzschia, a single-celled plant, according to state health officials. Conditions affecting the growth of Pseudo-nitzschia are unpredictable, and that makes it difficult to know when levels of domoic acid in locally caught crab will subside.

Health officials will continue to monitor domoic acid in Dungeness and rock crab until levels subside below 20 parts per million in the meat and 30 parts per million in the viscera, they said.

Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. Symptoms can appear within 30 minutes to 24 hours after consuming toxic seafood, and persist for several days.

Severe cases of domoic acid poisoning can sometimes involve trouble breathing, confusion, disorientation, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma or even death.

So far – however – no cases of domoic acid poisoning have been reported, according to state health officials.

For more information call the California Department of Public Health’s shellfish information line at (800) 553-4133.