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FDA AWARDS WASHINGTON OFFICIALS CONTRACT FOR SHELLFISH, CRAB MONITORING, WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SAYS

FDA AWARDS WASHINGTON OFFICIALS CONTRACT FOR SHELLFISH, CRAB MONITORING,
 WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SAYS
 OLYMPIA, Wash., Oct. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has awarded state health officials a $265,000 contract to monitor shellfish and crab for domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin that has forced the closure of some recreational and commercial harvesting over the past year, the Washington State Department of Health said today.
 "Domoic acid, the cause of amnesic shellfish poisoning, was first discovered on the West Coast last year," said Washington State Health Secretary Kristine M. Gebbie. "By working together with the FDA and the other state agencies, we will be able to monitor levels of the toxin more closely, gain some new insight into it and respond appropriately to protect the public."
 Under the contract, the State Department of Health Laboratory will purchase new equipment and begin routine tests of clams, oysters, mussels and crabs from Washington's coast, along with oysters and clams from Oregon. The State Department of Agriculture will collect the crab samples.
 The contract also calls for weekly analysis of plankton, which carry domoic acid. By consuming the plankton, shellfish and crab become contaminated with the toxin. By analyzing the plankton, state health officials hope to better understand conditions which cause domoic acid levels to increase.
 Currently, Washington and Oregon health officials rely on FDA laboratories to conduct the tests and report back on results. The new equipment will be located at the State Public Health Laboratory in Seattle.
 Domoic acid was first detected on the West Coast in September of last year in California, but has been present on the Eastern Seaboard and in Eastern Canada since 1987. It is a natural, water-soluble substance produced by microscopic marine plankton algae. Experts believe it is not related to pollution.
 Last year, the state health agency identified 24 Washington residents who become ill from eating shellfish contaminated with domoic acid. Their symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and headaches.
 More severe symptoms include difficulty in breathing and permanent loss of short-term memory. People can die from ingesting very high levels of domoic acid.
 The FDA has established a safety level of 20 parts per million (ppm) of domoic acid in shellfish and crabs. High levels forced the cancellation of recreational and commercial razor clam harvesting seasons in the spring of this year and last fall and winter. In addition, the commercial crab harvesting season was delayed last year, due to high levels of the toxin. In crab, domoic acid levels have been high only in the viscera (guts).
 Since last summer, domoic acid levels in coastal clams have been below the FDA-approved level with a few exceptions.
 -0- 10/30/92
 /CONTACT: Dean R. Owen of the Washington State Department of Health, 206-753-3934; or Julie Sandberg of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, 206-902-1884; Lloyd Athearn of the Oregon Division of Health, 503-731-4590; Sue Hutchcroft of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 206-483-4953/ CO: Washington State Department of Health; Washington State Department
 of Agriculture; U.S. Food and Drug Administration ST: Washington, Oregon IN: SU:


LM-JH -- SE006 -- 7125 10/30/92 12:54 EST
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Date:Oct 30, 1992
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