In November, crab meat was pulled out of menus, but the new year brought with it the permission to eat crab meat in some California parts. These areas include the San Luis Obispo counties and the Santa Barbara coast.
The Dungeness crabs were first banned because of their high toxicity levels. The crabs were infected by a toxic algae named Pseudo-nitzchia. When people ate the infected meat, even in small portions, they started to show symptoms of food poisoning. These included severe diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. Larger doses of the domoic acid contained by the infected crab meat could have led to seizures, memory loss on short term and even death.
The domoic acid is a neurotoxin that can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning. The acid is produced by algae and it accumulates in sardines, shellfish and anchovies. When humans, sea lions, otters and anchovies eat contaminated animals, poisoning results. When the concentration of domoic acid is higher than 20 mg/tissue, the shellfish should not be sold or eaten.
People are still advised not to eat the viscera of the crab, even though the ban has been lifted. That is because that part of the crab contains the biggest dose of domoic acid, which increases the chances of a person to be infected.
In the regions where the crab meat is now permitted, a number of tests were done in order to make sure that the toxicity levels of the crabs were normal. The other areas will continue to ban the meat crab until the toxicity levels will go back to normal.
The warmer temperatures of the waters which led to the population explosion of the algae, were caused by the Winter warm current, El Nino and other changes of the climate. Other species were affected by it as well, like the sea lion population. A lot of fish species were killed by the dangerous algae. The impact of the algae bloom is felt not only by the environment, but by some industries as well.
Even though some areas have been declared as acid free, you should still be careful. Crabs should be boiled or steamed, not fried and the water in which they were boiled should be thrown immediately. Also, keep in mind that the viscera could still be dangerous, so make sure to remove it .The symptoms of the infection appear after 24 hours and if you identify them as domoic acid infection, you should go to the hospital urgently.
As the winter is setting, permission to eat crab meat in some California parts will extend to a lot more areas in the near future.
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