Seafood Recall as Warning Over Fears of Toxic Contamination

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cautioning consumers about scallops that were recalled over fears they may contain illness-inducing toxins.

An FDA alert issued on Wednesday warned restaurants, retailers and consumers in Illinois and several northeastern states against consuming “whole, live scallops” that were sold by the Massachusetts-based seafood wholesale company Intershell International Corp.

The recall applies to scallops sold by Intershell International in Massachusetts, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The affected scallops are incorrectly labeled as being harvested from “location FED 514” and have harvest dates of December 26, December 27 and January 1.

The FDA said that the scallops “were received from an unlicensed harvester” and are “believed to be harvested from prohibited waters” in Massachusetts. The agency was informed of the issue by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on January 5, with Intershell International initiating a recall four days later.

A man is pictured holding a fresh scallop at a market in Paris, France on December 6, 2023. The Food and Drug Administration this week warned consumers in at least five U.S. states against eating recalled scallops believed to have been harvested from restricted waters in Massachusetts.
DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP

“Contaminated scallops can cause illness if eaten raw and whole, or with viscera or roe attached, particularly in people with compromised immune systems,” the FDA alert says. “Scallops contaminated with pathogens may look, smell, and taste normal.”

Newsweek reached out for comment to Intershell International via email and online contact form on Thursday.

The FDA cautioned that it was “possible” the scallops may have been distributed to states other than the five listed, saying that it was continuing “to monitor the investigation and provide assistance to state authorities as needed.”

Restaurants and retailers that may have received the scallops were directed to have workers thoroughly wash their hands and clean utensils and food preparation areas to avoid any possible cross-contamination.

While there is no indication that any particular pathogen has been found in the recalled scallops, regulations against seafood being harvested in restricted waters are in place due to the potential for contamination to cause severe illness that in rare can result in death.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is the most common type of severe shellfish poisoning, is caused by a potent neurotoxin present in a type of algae that is sometimes found in restricted waters.

Those stricken with PSP initially experience numbness and tingling in their extremities, difficulty speaking and cognitive issues. Victims become progressively paralyzed as the poisoning continues, sometimes to the point that they require a ventilator to continue breathing.

Other types of shellfish poisoning may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. A rare form results in a type of amnesia, with survivors having “severe anterograde, short-term memory deficits,” according to the CDC.

The FDA advised anyone who is experiencing symptoms after eating scallops that may be contaminated to promptly seek medical attention.