The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers not to eat tomalley from American Lobster (often called Maine Lobster) due to an increased risk of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).
Lobster tomalley – or lobster paste – is the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters. It is considered a delicacy, and may be eaten alone or added to sauces for flavor. The term lobster paste or lobster pâté can also be used to indicate a mixture of tomalley and lobster roe.
PSP Symptoms include tingling and/or numbness of the mouth, face or neck; muscle weakness; headache; and nausea. In some cases when large amounts of the toxin are consumed, these symptoms can lead to respiratory failure and even death. Symptoms usually occur within two hours of exposure to the PSP toxin. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
PSP toxins normally occur from time to time in clams and other shellfish, such as lobster, and are carefully monitored by state regulatory authorities.
The FDA learned of an increased risk of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning in Maine Lobster tomalley after routine sampling conducted in Maine and New Hampshire found dangerous levels of the toxins. Some shellfish beds have been closed in recent months due to elevated levels of PSP toxins.
Lobster tomalley normally does not contain dangerous levels of PSP toxins. However, the ongoing “red tide” in northern New England and eastern Canada may be contributing to this somewhat abnormal occurrence.