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Information update

Health Canada reminds Canadians about the consumption of lobster tomalley

Starting date:
May 27, 2013
Posting date:
May 27, 2013
Type of communication:
Information Update
Allergen - Fish
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Food Safety
General Public
Identification number:


Health Canada is reminding Canadians about its consumption advice for tomalley from lobsters because of the natural toxins that can sometimes be found in this organ.

Past information gathered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) suggests that there is a potential for a very small number of lobsters to contain levels of paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) in the tomalley that could represent a health risk to consumers if too much tomalley is eaten.

This toxin is normally not detected in lobster meat and so there are no recommended restrictions on the consumption of lobster meat. As well, this advice does not extend to canned lobster tomalley because the risk is controlled during processing.

The tomalley is the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster. It functions as the liver and pancreas, and much like the liver of other animals, the lobster’s tomalley is the natural filter for contaminants. Test results have shown that the tomalley can accumulate contaminants found in the environment, including PSP toxins. Although not widely consumed, tomalley is considered by some to be a delicacy.

PSP toxins are naturally produced by certain species of microscopic marine algae found in coastal waters. The toxin can affect the human nervous system and can be very serious if ingested in large amounts. Symptoms of a mild exposure 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. Should you experience any of these symptoms after consuming lobster tomalley, you should immediately consult a health care professional.

What you should do

While there have been no confirmed cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning from consuming lobster tomalley, Health Canada is reminding Canadians about its advice on lobster tomalley consumption to further protect consumers.

Health Canada recommends that:

  • children not eat lobster tomalley, and

  • adults restrict their consumption of lobster tomalley to no more than the amount from one cooked lobster per day.

Media enquiries

Health Canada

(613) 957-2983

Public enquiries

(613) 957-2991

1-866 225-0709

What Health Canada is doing

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitor and assess levels of PSP toxins in lobster tomalley in order to ensure that advice is based on the best available information. Health Canada will inform Canadians on any changes to the advice should updates be required.