Japan Lifts Ban, Advises Importers Test Lobster Tomalley


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
July 30, 2008

Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has lifted its ban on American lobster but is advising importers to test tomalley at the port of entry to ensure the substance is free of the toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service told the National Fisheries Institute this morning.

The tolerance level is set at 4 mouse units per gram. If the tomalley contains less than 4 MU/g of PSP-causing toxins, the lobster can be sold in the marketplace. But if it contains more than 4 MU/g, the shipment must be detained at the port of entry.

Testing is voluntary and applies only to lobsters harvested off Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Atlantic Canada.

Japan's testing recommendation stems from an advisory the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued Monday warning consumers to avoid eating tomalley due to a red tide outbreak in northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes. Red tide produces PSP-causing toxins that can accumulate in tomalley, the soft, green substance found in a lobster's body cavity that functions its liver, pancreas and intestines.

Word surfaced Wednesday afternoon that U.S. and Canadian lobster shipments were on quarantine in Japan because, according to NFI and the Maine Lobster Promotion Council, Japanese officials misunderstood the FDA advisory; lobster meat is unaffected by toxins in tomalley and perfectly safe to consume, they emphasize.

The FDA is looking at clarifying its advisory, says NFI.

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