Dozens sickened after eating tainted mussels

British Columbia has about 50 reported cases of people falling sick after eating contaminated mussels, a health official says.

Some Canadians have fallen sick after eating contaminated mussels, health officials say.

British Columbia has about 50 cases as of Tuesday, the Provincial Health Services Authority said in an email.

On Saturday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned consumers not to eat certain mussels because they may contain Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) biotoxin. 
Consumers should buy their mussels from reputable dealers, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

The affected mussels were harvested from two areas in B.C. by Island Sea Farms Inc. between July 19 and Aug. 2. Consumers who bought raw mussels then should check with their retailer to determine if the product is included in the recall.

The products were distributed in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and possibly other provinces and territories.

Brand names were Saltspring Island, Albion Fisheries Ltd, Pacific Rim Shellfish Corp., Albion, and B & C Food, CFIA said.

No other harvesters have been identified and the distribution remains the same, Rick Grant, a senior advisor in CFIA's fish and seafood division in Ottawa, said Tuesday.

Avoiding biotoxin

Food contaminated with DSP biotoxin may not look or smell spoiled but can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and chills.

The biotoxin is similar to paralytic shellfish poison.

In warmer weather conditions, microscopic algae may bloom naturally and produce toxins, Grant said.

Shellfish such as mussels, clams and oysters are filter feeders that consume algae and accumulate the toxin inside their stomach.

"Blooms that would cause shellfish to accumulate the toxin, they occur on both coasts, [at] different times of the year. But actually related to illnesses, it's very rare," Grant said.

Grant recommended that consumers ensure that they buy their shellfish from reputable dealers.

With files from CBC's Amina Zafar