Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Survey of Tetrodotoxin in New Zealand Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish over a 16-Month Period.

Toxins 2020 August 11
Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is a heat-stable neurotoxin typically associated with pufferfish intoxications. It has also been detected in shellfish from Japan, the United Kingdom, Greece, China, Italy, the Netherlands and New Zealand. A recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientific opinion concluded that a level of <0.044 mg TTX/kg in marine bivalves and gastropods, based on a 400 g portion size, does not result in adverse effects in humans. There have been no reports of human illness attributed to the consumption of New Zealand shellfish containing TTX. To obtain a greater understanding of its presence, a survey of non-commercial New Zealand shellfish was performed between December 2016 and March 2018. During this period, 766 samples were analysed from 8 different species. TTX levels were found to be low and similar to those observed in shellfish from other countries, except for pipi ( Paphies australis ), a clam species endemic to New Zealand. All pipi analysed as part of the survey were found to contain detectable levels of TTX, and pipi from a sampling site in Hokianga Harbour contained consistently elevated levels. In contrast, no TTX was observed in cockles from this same sampling site. No recreationally harvested shellfish species, including mussels, oysters, clams and tuatua, contained TTX levels above the recommended EFSA safe guidance level. The levels observed in shellfish were considerably lower than those reported in other marine organisms known to contain TTX and cause human intoxication (e.g., pufferfish). Despite significant effort, the source of TTX in shellfish, and indeed all animals, remains unresolved making it a difficult issue to understand and manage.

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