, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 141–153 | Cite as

Hazards Associated with the Consumption of Sea Turtle Meat and Eggs: A Review for Health Care Workers and the General Public

  • A. Alonso Aguirre
  • Susan C. Gardner
  • Jesse C. MarshEmail author
  • Stephen G. Delgado
  • Colin J. Limpus
  • Wallace J. Nichols


Sea turtle products (e.g., meat, adipose tissue, organs, blood, eggs) are common food items for many communities worldwide, despite national regulations in some countries prohibiting such consumption. However, there may be hazards associated with this consumption due to the presence of bacteria, parasites, biotoxins, and environmental contaminants. Reported health effects of consuming sea turtles infected with zoonotic pathogens include diarrhea, vomiting, and extreme dehydration, which occasionally have resulted in hospitalization and death. Levels of heavy metals and organochlorine compounds measured in sea turtle edible tissues exceed international food safety standards and could result in toxic effects including neurotoxicity, kidney disease, liver cancer, and developmental effects in fetuses and children. The health data presented in this review provide information to health care providers and the public concerning the potential hazards associated with sea turtle consumption. Based on past mortality statistics from turtle poisonings, nursing mothers and children should be particularly discouraged from consuming all sea turtle products. We recommend that individuals choose seafood items lower in the food chain that may have a lower contaminant load. Dissemination of this information via a public health campaign may simultaneously improve public health and enhance sea turtle conservation by reducing human consumption of these threatened and endangered species.


sea turtle human health contaminants bacteria parasites 



The authors acknowledge Grupo Tortuguero. We thank Monterey Bay Aquarium for contributing staff resources. This project was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Oak Foundation, Marisla Foundation, the Conservation Medicine Program at Wildlife Trust, and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Conacyt, FOSEMARNAT-2004-01-44).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Alonso Aguirre
    • 1
  • Susan C. Gardner
    • 2
  • Jesse C. Marsh
    • 3
    Email author
  • Stephen G. Delgado
    • 4
  • Colin J. Limpus
    • 5
  • Wallace J. Nichols
    • 6
  1. 1.Wildlife TrustColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del NoroesteBCSMexico
  3. 3.Seafood Watch ProgramMonterey Bay AquariumMontereyUSA
  4. 4.Department of Life Sciences CommunicationUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA
  5. 5.Queensland Turtle ResearchCapalabaAustralia
  6. 6.Department of HerpetologyCalifornia Academy of SciencesSan FranciscoUSA

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