Health

Dungeness crab health warning lifted for more of California

In this file photo, Dungeness crabs sit in a bin after being offloaded from a fishing vessel on November 17, 2010 in San Francisco, California. The Dungeness crabbing seasons were delayed in California, Oregon and Washington last year after testing showed unhealthy levels of domoic acid, a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal illness.
In this file photo, Dungeness crabs sit in a bin after being offloaded from a fishing vessel on November 17, 2010 in San Francisco, California. The Dungeness crabbing seasons were delayed in California, Oregon and Washington last year after testing showed unhealthy levels of domoic acid, a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal illness.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Health officials say Dungeness crabs caught along a swath of California's coast no longer show high levels of a marine toxin and are safe to eat.

Public Health Officer Karen Smith on Thursday lifted a health advisory for the popular crustaceans that had been in effect from Pt. Reyes to Monterey County since mid-November. A similar warning was cancelled off the coasts of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties on New Year's Eve.

The Dungeness crabbing seasons were delayed in California, Oregon and Washington last year after testing showed unhealthy levels of domoic acid, a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal illness.

Symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours and can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness, according to state health officials.

The symptoms normally disappear within a few days, but some severe cases can prove fatal or leave the victim with permanent short-term memory loss.

No cases of domoic acid poisoning related to this year's event have been reported, according to a statement from the California Department of Public Health.

Still, health officials are continuing to advise consumers to avoid eating a crab's internal organs, which are also known as "butter" or "guts."

The viscera often contain much higher levels of domoic acid than the meat, and that toxin can leach into the cooking liquid, officials said.

To help reduce the risk, the health department offered the following tips:

  • Remove the crab viscera and rinse out the body cavity prior to cooking, or...
  • Boil or steam whole crabs, instead of frying or broiling, and discard cooking liquids

The health advisory hasn't been lifted everywhere. It remains in effect north of Pt. Reyes. And rock crabs caught around the Channel Islands and near Piedras Blancas Light Station in San Luis Obisbo County remain subject to a health warning as well.