Is It Safe To Eat The Body Of A Lobster? (Debating Tomalley Consumption)

Discovering the truth behind lobster consumption, we reveal which parts are safe or advisable to eat. We also address concerns surrounding potential contamination and share tips on how to avoid foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria. 

Rest assured, by the end of this article, you will be equipped with invaluable knowledge to savor the experience of eating lobster with confidence.

The Safety of Consuming Lobster Meat: Understanding the Basics

Is it safe to eat the body of a lobster? Consuming lobster meat is generally safe, but there are some important things to keep in mind to avoid potential health risks. Here are the basics you need to know.

Lobster Tomalley:

  • The green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster, known as tomalley, functions as the liver and pancreas.
  • While there are no known safety considerations when it comes to eating lobster meat, it is advised to refrain from eating the tomalley.


  • Lobster is high in protein and can spoil quickly.
  • Purchase live or freshly boiled lobsters to ensure freshness.
  • Keep the meat thoroughly chilled, as lobster will spoil quickly above 4˚C/39˚F.
  • If the lobster emits an unpleasant odor, it is likely spoiled and should not be consumed.
  • Mould on a raw or live lobster is rare, but if any growths are seen, it indicates decay and should be avoided.


  • It is unwise to eat raw lobster meat, as it may contain various bacteria that can be harmful to humans.
  • Once cooked, these bacteria are killed, and it is safe to consume lobster meat.
  • Undercooked shellfish like lobster can transmit hepatitis infection, leading to liver damage.


  • Certain raw seafood, including lobster, can carry parasites that may make you sick from food poisoning.
  • An outbreak of Vibrio in 2017 was linked to the consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish, including lobster.

Potential Risks Associated with Lobster Stomach Consumption

Consuming lobster stomach can pose several potential risks to your health. These risks include:

  1. Food Poisoning: Lobsters that have eaten toxic algae can pass on toxins to the consumers, leading to Amnesic (ASP) or Paralytic (PSP) shellfish poisoning. This can result in serious health issues and requires immediate medical attention.
  2. Long-term Health Problems: Eating undercooked lobster can expose you to harmful bacteria or parasites that may not be properly killed during cooking. This can lead to long-term health problems if not addressed, so it’s important to ensure proper cooking techniques.
  3. Microbial Contamination: Improper handling of lobster can lead to microbial contamination, which may cause foodborne illnesses such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, and headaches. Disease-causing bacteria like Vibrio species, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella species, and Shigella species are commonly associated with improperly handled crustaceans.

It’s important to note that lobster is also among the most allergenic foods, and consuming it may cause mild to severe allergic reactions.

To minimize the risks associated with lobster stomach consumption, it is recommended to:

  • Avoid consuming undercooked lobster and ensure it is cooked thoroughly to kill any harmful bacteria or parasites.
  • Pay close attention to lobster handling, ensuring proper hygiene and safety practices to avoid microbial contamination.
  • Follow the guidelines provided by the University of Maine, which recommend eating lobster within three to six months of freezing to maintain its quality and safety.

Debating the Safety of Tomalley Consumption

Is it safe to eat the body of a lobster, specifically the tomalley, is a topic of debate. Lobster tomalley is the green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster, serving as its liver and pancreas. Here are some key points to consider:

Potential Accumulation of Contaminants:

  • Lobster tomalley can act as a filter, accumulating pollutants from its environment. This means that it can absorb harmful contaminants, which raises concerns about its safety.
  • The Maine Department of Health and Human Services advises against consuming lobster tomalley due to the potential accumulation of contaminants.

FDA Warning about Toxins:

  • In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers to avoid eating tomalley in American lobster due to potentially dangerous levels of the toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).
  • It’s important to note that this advisory only applies to the tomalley. Studies have shown that even when high levels of PSP toxins are present in the tomalley, the rest of the lobster meat is safe to eat.

Delicacy Status and Individual Preferences:

  • Some people consider lobster tomalley a delicacy and enjoy eating it along with the rest of the lobster. This indicates that there are differing opinions on its safety.
  • However, it’s vital to bear in mind the health concerns associated with tomalley consumption, especially considering the potential accumulation of contaminants.

Importance of Properly Cooking Lobster Meat to Minimize Health Hazards

Properly cooking lobster meat is crucial to minimize health hazards associated with consuming undercooked or contaminated meat. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Parasites and Bacteria: Lobster meat can contain parasites like roundworms and tapeworms, as well as harmful bacteria such as Vibrio species. These can cause foodborne illnesses, leading to symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, and headaches.
  2. Cooking doesn’t kill all bacteria: Even though cooking lobster meat can reduce the risk of harmful bacteria, it may not eliminate all of them. Therefore, it’s essential to cook the lobster meat properly to avoid any potential bacterial contamination.
  3. Long-term health problems: In rare cases, eating undercooked lobster can result in long-term health problems if harmful bacteria or parasites are not properly killed during cooking. To ensure the safety of consumption, it is important to cook lobster meat thoroughly.

To minimize the risk of health hazards, the FDA recommends cooking lobster meat to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). This can be achieved through boiling, steaming, or grilling methods. Additionally, proper handling and storage of lobster meat are crucial to avoid contamination.

By following these guidelines, individuals can enjoy the delicious taste of lobster meat while reducing the potential risks to their health.

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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