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FDA Warns Some Bantry Bay Mussels Contaminated

Aug 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to consumers against eating certain frozen cooked mussel products made by Bantry Bay Seafoods.  The mussels are imported from Ireland and may be contaminated with azaspiracid toxins (AZAs). The FDA also recommends that retailers and foodservice operators remove these products, and any food in which these products were used as an ingredient, from sale or service.

In July, two people in Washington State became ill after eating Bantry Bay’s "Mussels in a Garlic Butter Sauce."  The FDA tested an unopened product from the same production lot and found that it contained the azaspiracid toxins.  Consumers are advised to dispose of the following Bantry Bay Seafood frozen cooked products with "Best before end" dates ranging from January 23, 2009, to November 15, 2009.  The "Best before end" dates can be found on the side of the box in the following format: MM:DD:YY. Tainted products are marked with dates 01:23:09 through 11:15:09 and are sold frozen in one-pound cardboard packages in stores throughout the United States:

  • Mussels in a Garlic Butter Sauce
  • Mussels in White Wine Sauce
  • Mussels in Tomato and Garlic Sauce

Azaspiracid is a potent toxic natural product that represents a human health hazard due to its seasonal contamination of mussels cultivated for human consumption. This unique toxin has been responsible for the acute poisoning of several humans.  The toxins are a group of naturally occurring marine toxins that can contaminate certain seafoods and are known to cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.  When seafood is contaminated with azaspiracid toxins, the food generally looks, smells, and tastes normal.  When humans eat such contaminated seafood, disease can result.  Of note, many such toxins could potentially become a dangerous tool in hands of terrorists.  Azaspiracid is a previously unknown—until 1995—and structurally new marine toxin that was responsible for an outbreak of diarrhetic food poisoning associated with consumption of contaminated Irish shellfish in Europe in 1995.  At that time, at least eight people in the Netherlands fell ill after consuming mussels (Mytilus edulis) cultivated at Killary Harbour, Ireland.  Testing identified azaspiracid—formerly called Killary Toxin-3 or KT3—and the new toxic syndrome was called azaspiracid poisoning, or AZP

Not just one compound, azaspiracid is a group of structurally similar polyethers with unprecedented structural features.  These poisons accumulate in bivalve mollusks—such as mussels, clams, oysters, and cockles—that feed on a type of toxic microalgae. In laboratory experiments, azaspiracids can induce widespread organ damage in animals, as well as neurotoxic effects including progressive paralysis.  Because of this they are considered to likely be more dangerous than previously known classes of shellfish toxins.  Azaspiracid contains unprecedented structural features and differs from any of the formerly known toxins found in shellfish or dinoflagellates and cannot be destroyed or neutralized by freezing or cooking, including boiling.  Symptoms typically occur within hours of consumption and persist for two to three days.

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