Press Releases

Mussel Quarantine

County Executive Office - Press Release

April 28, 2000

Health Care Agency
Regulatory Health Services Environmental Health

Larry Honeybourne
(714) 667-3750

Mussel Quarantine

Santa Ana, April 28, 2000...The Orange County Environmental Health Division, reminds consumers that the Annual Mussel Quarantine in California will be in effect in Orange County from May 1 through October 31, 2000. Sport harvesting of mussels for human consumption is prohibited along the entire California coastline. All bays and inlets are included in the quarantine. The purpose of this quarantine is to protect the public from deadly poisons which may be present in bivalve mollusks, such as mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops. Between 1927 and 2000, California recorded 521 cases of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, including 32 deaths.

The greatest hazard is poisoning from mussels because they develop high levels of toxin more quickly than other mollusks and are eaten whole without removal of digestive organs. All dark parts should be removed from clams, oysters and scallops before eating, since the poison may be concentrated in those areas. Health officials emphasize that toxic mussels cannot be distinguished from harmless ones. Moreover, cooking does not destroy the toxins as they are relatively heat resistant.

The California quarantine applies only to mussels collected locally by sports harvesters. All commercial shellfish harvesters in California must be certified by the State and are subject to strict testing requirements.

The safest guideline to follow is:

Do not eat mussels from California coastal waters collected by sports harvesters from May 1 through October 31.