Health officials warn public about contaminated mussels

Health officials warn public about contaminated mussels.

Health officials are warning consumers to steer clear of contaminated mussels that cause diarrhetic shellfish poisoning.

There have been more than 40 cases reported in B.C., including two in the central Island area. But the products were also distributed in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued the warning on the weekend.

The mussels were harvested by Island Sea Farm Inc. between July 19 and Aug. 2. They are sold under the brand names Saltspring Island Mussels, on all harvest dates up to and including Aug. 2; Albion Fisheries Ltd. for harvests up to and including Aug. 4; Pacific Rim Shellfish Corp. for all harvest dates up to July 31; Albion for ship dates of July 20 to Aug 4; and B&C Food for mussels processed between July 20 and Aug. 4.

Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, said the shellfish poisoning isn’t fatal, but can cause an unpleasant couple of days.

“The good news is it’s almost over in one or three days and most people are over it in 24 hours,” he said. “It may be related to the quantity of mussels ingested.”

It can take as little as eating three mussels for a person to become sick and sometimes symptoms are present before a person barely finishes eating or it can take 12 to 24 hours.

“The more toxin you take in, the quicker the onset of symptoms,” said Stanwick.

Diarrhetic shellfish poisoning is caused when mussels ingest a form of algae that collects in the gut of the mussel. It causes diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and chills.

Stanwick suggests people drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and said symptoms will subside.

Stanwick said some people may have similar symptoms to diarrhetic shellfish poisoning; however, only people who have ingested the contaminated mussels will have the condition. He said there are still instances of norovirus in the community and cautions people about the importance of thoroughly cooking their food during summer barbecues to ensure they don’t get sick.

For more information on the mussel alert, please go to