B.C. shellfish hit by red tide toxin bloom
Certain oysters and mussels harvested from British Columbia's west coast may contain a toxin that causes paralysis or even death because of a phenomenon called red tide, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says.
Royal Miyagi and Little Wing Oysters, as well as various mussels, harvested from waters on the Sunshine Coast, about 200 kilometres north of Vancouver, on Oct. 3 and 4 may contain toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).
For complete details of the recall, click here.
Symptoms of PSP include tingling and numbness of the lips, tongue, hands and feet, and difficulty swallowing. In severe situations, this can proceed to difficulty walking, muscle and respiratory paralysis that can lead to death in as little as 12 hours.
It is believed the shellfish contain the toxin because of an algae bloom, or large concentrations of microorganisms, in the water known as a red tide along the shoreline. Large scale algae blooms have been associated to marine mortality events and various shellfish poisonings historically.
So far, there have been no illnesses associated with PSP reported.
The shellfish, distributed through Albion Fisheries, Aquatec Seafoods and Taylor Shellfish, were sold to retail stores and restaurants across the province. The CFIA says smaller quantities may have been sold at retail seafood counters.
Guy Dean, Vice-President of Albion Fisheries, told ctvbc.ca the majority of affected oysters never left its processing facility.
"It's all in our building. It was about one-third of the oysters we had in house. We've told all our customers now," Dean said.
As a part of the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program, the company supplies a large quantity of shellfish and other products to local Vancouver restaurants. He said the company's lotting system allows them to pinpoint exactly where the oysters originated and halt the distribution immediately.
Dean said the red tide, which normally occurs in the summer months, is late in the year and disappointing for the industry.
"We've had a pretty good run the last couple of years and not had any major recalls."
This is the second major blow to the B.C. seafood industry in less than a month.
In late Sept. the CFIA warned that some oysters harvested from Vancouver Island's west coast were contaminated with the norovirus, which is commonly transmitted by faecally contaminated water.
Upwards of 20 illnesses were reported.