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Ceres Crab Fest goes on with assurances of safety
Crab meat to be served Feb. 5-6 at the Howard Training Center event in Ceres will be coming from Alaska, said event planner Geri Lewis, which is outside the area of concern. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

News reports on the concerns over the safety of crab meat has greatly affected ticket sales for of Howard Training Center's upcoming 22nd annual Crab Fest set for Feb. 5-6. But HTC Events Manager Geri Lewis said safety is not an issue because of its source of crab meat.

"Our Crab Fest is right around the corner and with the bad publicity about the bacteria in crab my ticket sales are dismal," said Lewis. "This is HTC's biggest fundraiser. This is our $135,000 event every year.

"Howard Training Center has been using the same supplier for 21 years. We are getting some great crab for our crab feed this year and are going forward with our event."

Crab season in California was delayed as a health advisory was issued in November when state officials found unsafe levels of a toxin in crab caused by algae, known as domoic acid. However, the health advisory regarding Dungeness and rock crabs caught along the coast between the Santa Barbara/Ventura County line and Latitude 35° 40' N has been lifted along the coasts of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Lewis said Pacific Fresh Seafood of Sacramento will be delivering crab from Alaska which has not experienced problems like California.

HTC typically sells out its Saturday event at 450 tickets and sees Friday attendance of about 400.

"We are not anywhere near that right now," said Lewis on Thursday. "The media scare is freaking people out. I've got people calling me who have been coming to the event for 21 years and they're like, ‘Are we going to be okay?' And I'm ‘Yes, yes, yes, quit listening to the news.' "

Lewis said she wouldn't be going ahead with the event if she hadn't been assured that the crab will be safe.

"We're confident in this crab."

Tickets to the event are $45 per person. The all-you-can-eat event includes a live and silent auction and live music. Doors open both evenings at 5:30 p.m., with dinner served at 7 p.m.

California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith updated the advisory recently because recent tests show that levels of domoic acid have declined to low or undetectable levels in crabs caught in these areas. While some California crab is now safe to eat, consumers should still avoid eating the internal organs of the crab, health and environmental health officials said. Consumers should not eat Dungeness or rock crabs from waters around Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands and areas north of Latitude 35° 40' N due to continued elevated levels of domoic acid in crabs caught in those areas.
The algae problem is being blamed on warmer-than-normal coastal waters off Central California.