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Scallops & bad reaction

When I was a very young kid scallops were one of my favorite foods. Then I got severely sick from them on two occasions and concluded I was allergic and stopped eating them. My dad also thought he was allergic to scallops.

Then I read somewhere that one can get really sick from undercooked scallops. Wondering if that was the real issue (because I can eat any other type of shellfish), I purchased one scallop, cooked it well done, ate it and was fine! Then last weekend I got a pu pu platter with scallops and was able to eat them without problem, too. So I plan to continue eating them, barring any problems.

Just wondering if anyone has any insight on this? I guess I'm wondering if maybe I'm unusually sensitive to lightly cooked scallops, which would mean avoiding them when eating out.

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  1. It certainly is possible. Another possibility is that the scallops were bad. They tend to go bad very quickly and can wreak havoc on your digestive system.

    1. If your bad reaction was of a gastrointestinal nature then I agree with Raytamsgv that the source was that the scallops were past their prime and you got a bacterial or viral infection. Many years ago, I had the same experience -- both my mother and I got ill after having had a home-cooked meal of scallops, which we concluded had gone bad. It's never happened to me before or since. (Undercooking the scallops might contribute to the problem as they don't cook thoroughly enough to kill the bugs. But, as a practical matter, scallops get tough if you cook them more than a few minutes, so I doubt that even thoroughly cooking scallops would suffice to kill such bacteria, unless you overcooked them.)

      1. I've eaten our local scallops raw on plenty of occasions and never got sick. I mean, you only cook them for a minute or two anyway, so it would be hard to "undercook" them. But as far as sensitivity, just go to your ENT and get tested, then you'll know for sure. But allergies can come and go, maybe yours was just temporary.

        1. You can also get a reaction from something that the shellfish were feeding on. This happens to a lot of people with shrimp. Something in the water that the shellfish were feeding on was the ultimate cause, but unfortunately you really can't find that out without consuming the shellfish.

          1. I had the exact same problem. As a kid I loved them then in my early twenties I had a horrible reaction. I went back gradually in my 40s and haven't had a problem in years. Who knows why, I just figured I grew out of it.

            1. I have eaten and enjoyed raw, boat (bay and sea) scallops. While it is possible, you do have a mild allergy to scallops, it should also be evident in eating other shellfish as well.

              It may be much more likely that you are experiencing an allergy to Sodium triphosphate.

              "One of the only things that you would find in a scallop that you wouldn't find in other shellfish is the chemical Sodium Tripolyphosphate. STP is used fairly often to swell the scallop with water weight before selling. It also has some preservative qualities. It's mostly found in frozen and lower priced scallops. STP can be an allergen to folks with phospate sensitivity."

              1 Reply
              1. re: Quine

                Interesting, maybe that was my problem. Once I did start eating them again I only cooked them at home and always bought dry scallops.

              2. My wife is a New Orleans native, and grew up with oysters, every way that one can imagine. She loved scallops with many preps.While mussels were not common elements in her diet, clams showed up often.

                At a point, she began to have issues. Being a nurse, and a dietitian, by training, she began to research, and also explore what was making her sick. She narrowed thing down to bi-valves, i.e. oysters, scallops, mussels and clams. Each took its toll on her.

                Now, though also in the mollusk family, she seems to have zero problems with abalone and limpets - single shelled. A taste so scallop will not bring her to her knees, but a whole scallop can do that. Same for oysters, mussels and clams.

                Now, we know what to tell the chef - no bi-valves.

                That has worked for the last 30 years, but at least we know.


                4 Replies
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  What your wife is a dietitian? She must compartmentalize a bunch.

                  1. re: wewwew

                    Actually, that is her original major, and then she went into nursing, then hospital administration, and now is at the top of that game, as one of the "Top 25 Women in Healthcare.."

                    Not at all sure what you mean by the "compartmentalization" comment, so maybe you will be kind enough to clarify that.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Wow, those is some major accomplishments! Hats off to your lovely bride!

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Just thought hanging out with you she was maybe exposed to less than balanced meals, profound chow but food pyramid correct?

                  2. I think an allergy to sodium triphosphate is something you should pursue with an allergist. It is not a good idea to pursue it, or any other allergy, on your own. Anaphylactic shock is very dangerous.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sr44

                      Definitely!! If you've been diagnosed with a shellfish allergy, don't do any testing on your own unless you've been given your physician's approval & have an emergency medication on hand.

                    2. Thanks, everybody. It was a GI reaction -- not something resembling anaphylactic shock -- does this still seem like something I should pursue with an allergist?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: thymeoz

                        How good is your health insurance or pocket book? I have a quick and violent reaction almost every time after eating a conch that I collected off a coral reef that had ciguteria (sp). 30 years later and my stomach still recognises conch and gets rid of it as soon as possible. No allergic reaction from the tests.

                        Strangely enough, I can eat conch as I had originally prepared it. Hot peppers, onions, and key lime juice. The body and mind is a complex and awesome piece of machinery.

                        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                          My insurance is good, but at my age/condition I spend more time than I'd like at various doctors' offices!

                          1. re: thymeoz

                            The test for allergies is pretty quick. You get lightly pricked with a number of pins simultaneously, no pain, and the results come back while you are in the exam room. A postive result returns as an itchy spot on the arm.

                            1. re: kurtt

                              About an hour at least in the waiting room for us where we go, then you have to wait I think 20 minutes or so to get the results? If it's your only doctor visit this year no biggie, but it will take a good chunk of your day if you have other things to do....we just did it together, and husband couldn't even get tested because one of his meds he already takes has antihistamines in it (not even an allergy med, all psych meds also have this as an ingredient for some reason). They claimed I had NO allergies and I'm not sure I believe them anyway, after all that.

                          2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                            Now for my wife, conch, abalone and limpets are OK - if the mollusk is a bi-valve, she has issues.


                          3. re: thymeoz

                            The GI response is what my wife suffered from. She can do "tastes" of scallop, and can tolerate some oysters in the soup/roux, but not the oysters themselves.


                          4. As a 4 yr old I was allowed to eat too many oysters, fried. I was sick that night and refused to eat oysters for 45 years. I am so glad I tried them again. I love them cooked every way I have ordered or cooked them.

                            I hope you enjoy your scallops as much as I do my oysters. And we are blessed to have a seafood resturant in town that has an extensive oyster menu at the oyster bar, over 10 different kinds flown in freshly every day. And one day a week when they are a 'buck a shuck', you know that's when we go!!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Nanzi

                              But not eating them because you overindulged & got sick because of that is a far, far cry from the OP's problem of allergic reaction.