The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has warned locals and holidaymakers visiting the West and South West Coast of Ireland of the dangers of gathering and consuming wild shellfish growing on the seashore. The warning follows reports to the FSAI in the past number of weeks where over ten people in Galway, Mayo and Sligo have become ill with suspected symptoms of shellfish poisoning. The FSAI suspects that these reports are linked to the harmful algal blooms that are occurring naturally along the West and South West Coast of Ireland.
According to Prof Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI, some residents and visitors engaged in the recreational gathering of shellfish in the region may be unaware of the dangers of consuming the shellfish they come across on the shoreline.
“Wild shellfish found along the West Coast may contain naturally occurring toxins that cannot be removed through cooking alone. Eating shellfish contaminated with these toxins can lead to people suffering nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps. The effects are not life-threatening but can be particularly severe for older people, young children and people who may already be ill from another medical condition,” Prof Reilly states.
The FSAI advises consumers that they should not gather or collect bi-valve shellfish (mussels, oysters, scallops, cockles and clams) themselves. Shellfish should only be purchased from reputable suppliers. Commercial producers of shellfish operate under a sophisticated national monitoring programme which manages the risks, with test results issued by the Marine Institute on an ongoing basis and a weekly status report is provided for bays where commercial harvesting of shellfish has been suspended because of high biotoxin levels. The FSAI states that if people do gather their own shellfish, they need to be aware of the risks they take - if harvesting is near commercial shellfisheries, the technical information from the monitoring programme at www.marine.ie may be useful.
Anyone suffering from the symptoms described above is advised to contact their local GP.
Consumers with food safety queries may contact the Food Safety Advice Line on 1890 33 66 77.