Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina have a message for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: the “safe” levels of a certain seafood toxin might not be so safe.
The toxin in question is domoic acid, which accumulates in mussels, scallops, clams, and fish. When humans consume too much of it they can get amnesic shellfish poisoning. MUSC researchers who tested how the toxin affected mice found their kidneys were far more sensitive to it than their brains. And that’s important, researchers say, because it suggests that the FDA might want to reconsider what levels of the toxin are safe for humans to eat, since the federal agency sets the legal limit.
“This means that humans who consume seafood may be at an increased risk of kidney damage, possibly leading to kidney failure and dialysis,” according to MUSC’s division of nephrology research chair P. Darwin Bell.
The specific toxin, which can cause adverse neurological affects, has become more prominent in coastal regions, likely because of environmental changes, according to a statement from MUSC researchers.
MUSC hasn’t verified how the toxin affects the human kidney.
“Because domoic acid leaves the body via the kidneys, researchers think increased monitoring of domoic acid levels in all seafood is warranted, and the FDA may need to reconsider the legal limit of domoic acid in food,” the researchers said in a statement.