New Zealand Food Safety Lifts Shellfish Warning, Lobster Advisory Remains

The public health warning against collecting shellfish on the East Coast of the North Island, from Cape Runaway to Wairoa River mouth has finally been lifted.

Deputy Director General of NZ Food Safety Vincent Arbuckle said before lifting warnings, water and mussel samples are monitored regularly until toxin levels decrease, ensuring at least two weeks of clear tests.

“We intensify our testing as soon as evidence of toxic algal blooms is observed,” said Arbuckle.

He acknowledged community concerns, emphasizing that lobster taken between Hicks Bay and Mahanga Beach near Mahia should still be treated with caution.

“It’s safe to consume the rest of the crayfish after removing the gut.” Contamination of the shellfish that lobsters eat causes toxicity in their stomachs, which does not go away with time.

Arbuckle assured whānau that the warning would be lifted as soon as crayfish safety was certain, while also continually monitoring toxin levels. He pointed out the importance of removing the stomach before eating up until that point.

Symptoms of toxicity in shellfish and lobster remain identical, ranging from numbness and tingling to respiratory failure and paralysis in severe cases.

He advised whānau to remain cautious despite the lack of recorded events and praised the public for following advice.

He also acknowledged the media for helping to spread the word and highlighted the need to work together to make educated decisions about the affected seafood.