If you're regularly in the practice of harvesting and cooking your own mussels from the waters of Marin county ... stop doing it for now. (Also, can we join you next time?) The California Department of Public Health issued a statement this morning warning consumers not to eat recreationally harvested mussels, clams, or whole scallops from Marin County.
The symptoms of the toxicity sound decidedly non-awesome:
"PSP toxins affect the central nervous system, producing a tingling around the mouth and fingertips within a few minutes to a few hours after eating toxic shellfish. These symptoms are typically followed by loss of balance, lack of muscular coordination, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing. In severe poisonings, complete muscular paralysis and death from asphyxiation can occur. Cooking does not destroy the toxin."
Commercially grown shellfish are still fine to eat, however, because California state law permits only state-certified commercial shellfish harvesters and growers to sell the products -- these businesses are subject to frequent mandatory testing.
"Shellfish from commercial harvesters can typically be found in a grocery store or seafood market," a spokesman from the CDPH said in an email. "The public should only purchase shellfish from a reputable supplier that is able to verify a state-certified source of the shellfish."
This warning comes on top of the annual mussel quarantine on recreationally harvested shellfish, which typically begins in the spring and ends in the fall -- the period in which the majority of illnesses and deaths have occurred. These can be extended or modified based on the toxin levels (the 2012 quarantine is still in effect for Humboldt and Del Norte counties).
CDPH strongly encourages recreational shellfish harvesters to be aware of current status by calling the Shellfish Information Line at (800) 553-4133.