Love lobster? Don’t eat too much of the green stuff

Published on June 3, 2014
Farmers' market to hold lobster races.

Health Canada is cautioning people who enjoy eating lobster tomalley - the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of animal - that there might be natural toxins present in this organ.

Tomalley functions as the liver and pancreas of the lobster, filtering out contaminants from the environment, including toxins associated with paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). Eating tomalley that contains PSP toxins may be harmful to your health, the department warned in a June 3 media release.

“Past information collected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suggests that there is a possibility for a very small number of lobsters to contain PSP toxins in the tomalley at levels high enough to represent a safety concern to consumers if the tomalley is eaten,” Health Canada says. “Since PSP toxins are not normally found in lobster meat, there are no health concerns with eating fresh or canned lobster meat.” 

Symptoms of mild exposure to PSP toxins “include a tingling sensation or numbness of the lips shortly after eating. Larger exposures can lead to these symptoms spreading to the arms and legs, headaches, dizziness and nausea, and in rare cases more serious conditions such as muscular paralysis, respiratory difficulty, choking and even death if medical attention is not received in time.” 

Anyone experiencing symptoms after eating tomalley should immediately seek medical assistance.

There have been no confirmed cases of PSP poisoning from consumption of tomalley, but Health Canada is advising that children not eat it and that adults eat only the amount of tomalley found in one cooked lobster per day.