Health officials have expanded a health hazard alert for certain raw oysters and mussels harvested in B.C. that may contain a paralytic toxin.

The public health alert was first issued on Saturday for certain mussels harvested in the Okeover Inlet between Oct. 2 and 14.  

On Monday, the alert was expanded to include several types of oysters also harvested from Okeover Inlet, including beach, royal miyagi, little wing, and Pacific oysters between Oct. 5 and 12.

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning

  • Paralytic shellfish toxins are a group of natural toxins that sometimes accumulate in bivalve shellfish that include oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and cockles.
  • Non-bivalve shellfish, such as whelks, can also accumulate toxins. These toxins can cause PSP if consumed.
  • The toxins can't be destroyed by cooking.
  • Symptoms of PSP include tingling and numbness of the lips, tongue, hands and feet, and difficulty swallowing.
  • In severe situations, this can proceed to difficulty walking, muscle paralysis, respiratory paralysis and death in as quickly as 12 hours.

So far, there are no reports of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning connected to the harvest.

The mussels were processed and sold by companies on the east coast of Vancouver Island primarily to restaurants and institutional operations in B.C., Alberta and Manitoba. 


Oysters and mussels from Okeover Inlet on B.C.'s west coast have been recalled over concerns they may be contaminated with toxins. (Ted Warren/Associated Press)

The oysters were processed and sold by several distributors both in the shell and shucked to wholesalers and restaurants in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, and possibly in other provinces.

Both the oysters and mussels were sold primarily in large quantities, but some may have been sold at retail outlets in small quantities to consumers.

The shellfish have been recalled by the distributors, but officials warn consumers who are unsure if they have bought the affected shellfish to contact their retailer or supplier.

PSP toxins cannot be destroyed by cooking.