People are being urged to cook raw mussels thoroughly after an increase in cases of food poisoning associated with commercially grown mussels from the Coromandel area.
New Zealand Food Safety director of food regulation Paul Dansted said cooking mussels kills a marine microorganism.
“Cooking kills the marine microorganism Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which occurs naturally throughout the world. Not all strains of this microorganism cause illness in humans,” he said.
“Generally people who are sick recover without hospital treatment however, in severe cases, hospitalisation is required. The symptoms are predominantly stomach cramps and watery diarrhoea and sometimes nausea, vomiting and fever.”
The mussels were all bought in their shell and were sold in plastic pottles.
People are advised not to eat raw or undercooked mussels or other shellfish, cook them thoroughly before eating.
Before handling raw shellfish, people should wash hands with soap and water. Consumers should also avoid contaminating cooked shellfish with raw shellfish and its juices.
“Eating raw shellfish always carries risk for foodborne illness,” Mr Dansted said.
Anyone who has eaten raw mussels and feels unwell is urged to contact their GP immediately.
“Testing is being done to confirm the type of Vibrio parahaemolyticus that has caused this illness. New Zealand Food Safety has an ongoing survey programme to test mussels and growing waters to help us understand why this occurred,” Mr Dansted said.
“Until we have more information, New Zealand Food Safety is reminding consumers to take care when handling, preparing and consuming mussels. Our advice to consumers who are pregnant or have low immunity is to avoid eating raw shellfish.”