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Neuroscience For Kids

Lobster Eaters Beware:
Neurotoxin in Lobster Liver!
lobster July 28, 2008

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to people who eat American lobster:

Don't eat the liver!

The liver, also called tomalley, is the green substance found in the middle of a lobster. Investigators have found that the tomalley contains high concentrations of the neurotoxin that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

lobster PSP is caused by a dinoflagellate<, a small marine plankton, that occurs during a "red tide." The toxin concentrates in shellfish and people can be poisoned when they eat the contaminated food. Symptoms of PSP can include numbness and tingling of the face, arms and legs, headache, dizziness, nausea and movement problems. In severe cases, a person will become paralyzed and unable to move. People may even stop breathing.

Cooking will not eliminate the toxin in the tomalley, but the FDA says that the meat of the lobster is still safe to eat.

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Copyright © 1996-2008, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington