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Paralytic Shellfish Poison toxin keeps King County beaches closed for shellfish harvesting

Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) levels are still elevated in King County, and people are reminded not to eat shellfish gathered at any King County beach. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) closed King County beaches to the recreational harvest of shellfish earlier this summer, and recent samples indicate the need to keep beaches closed.

The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, other species of mollusks and invertebrates such as the moon snail. Crabmeat is not known to contain the PSP toxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts ("butter"). This closure does not apply to shrimp. Working with partners, Public Health – Seattle & King County posted advisory signs at beaches warning people to not collect shellfish.

Commercial beaches are sampled separately and commercial products should be safe to eat.

What is Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning?

PSP poisoning can be life-threatening and is caused by eating shellfish containing a potent neurotoxin. A naturally occurring marine organism produces the toxin. The toxin is not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

A person cannot determine if PSP toxin is present by visual inspection of the water or shellfish. For this reason, the term "red tide" is misleading and inaccurate. PSP can only be detected by laboratory testing

Recreational shellfish harvesting can be closed due to rising levels of PSP at any time. Therefore, harvesters are advised to call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 or visit the Biotoxin website www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Puget Sound.

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