Dungeness crabs safe to eat in parts of California

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 31, 2015 10:48 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — People in Southern and Central California can feast on Dungeness and rock crabs on New Year's Day.

Officials said Thursday that a health advisory is being lifted along the coasts of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith updated the advisory Thursday after recent tests showed levels of domoic acid have declined to low or undetectable levels in crabs caught in those areas.

The advisory remains in effect for state waters around the cities of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Island due to continued elevated levels of domoic acid. Consumers should not eat Dungeness or rock crabs from those areas.

In mild doses, domoic acid causes gastrointestinal illness and in rare cases may be fatal.

As a precaution, consumers are advised not eat the viscera, also known as the butter or guts of crabs. The viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than crab body meat, officials said.

What's more, when whole crabs are cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach from the viscera into the cooking liquid. Water or broth used to cook whole crabs should be tossed and not used to prepare sauces, broths, soups, stews, stocks, roux, dressings or dips.

In Northern California, determined shoppers should be able to find some out-of-state crab. But supplies are limited, and prices are high, in some cases, twice the usual amount. Much of it is frozen, not live or freshly caught.