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Is It Safe To Eat A Dead Crab?

You are on the beach, and you come along with some washed-up crabs. They are dead; but, they look relatively fresh. Should you take these crabs with you and have a surprise crab feed? Or, when you are going crabbing, you discover a few dead crabs.

You have heard, though, that it is dangerous to eat crab that has been dead for some time. Is that true, or is it just a wive’s tale? This is a good question, as you can never be too cautious when it comes to food poisoning. I will answer this question and more in this article concerning crab safety and also some tips for safely preparing crabs and other shellfish for your meal.

Can Eating Dead Crabs Make You Sick?

The simple answer to this question is yes. As a result, no matter how hungry you are, NEVER eat any crabs that you find that are already dead. Crabs, after they die quickly, start decomposing, which results in bacteria, and toxins rapidly multiplying. A more technical explanation is that a middle gut of a crab (where a crab’s food is digested) contains enzymes that help with food digestion. After a crab dies, these enzymes spread all over and eventually spread out and break down a crab’s muscle tissue. The most common result of bacteria and toxins multiplying when eaten is vibriosis.




Under NORMAL SITUATIONS, vibriosis isn’t fatal. But, it may make you want to die as you will be quite miserable with stomach ache, fever, vomiting, nausea, and chills. These symptoms start within 24 hours after eating tainted meat and will last for around 72 hours. As I first explained, fibrosis isn’t fatal in NORMAL SITUATIONS. When you are at home and take care of yourself, those with a weakened immune system are usually the only ones who may get seriously ill.

In an outdoor survival situation, vomiting, diarrhea, etc., caused by eating dead crabs and vibriosis may turn lethal as you may then suffer from dehydration.

Even if you do not die from vibriosis, I cannot think of anything much worse than having explosive diarrhea when you are outdoors without a toilet or toilet paper.

The best way to prevent vibriosis or any other poisoning caused by crabs is to observe the following precautions:

  • Alive-Keep the crabs alive before you prepare them for eating.
  • Discard-Throw out crabs that die before you have a chance to prepare and cook them.
  • Get Them Ready-Properly prep and cook all crabs. The proper steps are summarized below.

Basic Crab Boiling Steps

  1. Boiling Water with salt
  2. Place crab in boiling water for around ten to 15 minutes. If you don’t have a watch or they will be some way to tell, they’ll be ready when they start floating.

Below is an excellent video that illustrates the proper steps to take when preparing and cooking crab.

Morals aside; one way or another. It is simply a fact that Crabs do feel pain when they are placed in the the pot of boiling H2O. To lessen this pain, you should place them in chilled water, fridge, or freezer for a few minutes before they are ready for prep. Also, as an added bonus, crabs that are kept cool, will be easier to handle.

Final Thoughts

Dead crab, lobster, and crawfish are delicious and can be an excellent source of food for survival and in a normal situation. No matter how tempting it can be to scoop up that dead crab or dead crawfish (especially when you are hungry) DO NOT DO IT! And, If you do catch a live crab, you need to prepare and cook them ASAP. If you follow this advice, you’ll be able to enjoy your crab feed safely.


Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (”PSP”) doesn’t necessarily pertain to dead crustaceans. However, unlike Vibriosis, PSP can be quite deadly. Luckily, PSP doesn’t happen very often. However, it is something that you should know. PSP is a natural ocean bio-toxin that is caused by microscopic dinoflagellate algae. Shellfish like scallops, mussels, clams, oysters, etc., are infected by PSP algae. Crabs are affected by eating shellfish that are infected with PSP, causing crustaceans to become contaminated with the PSP toxin. Small amounts of this toxin aren’t dangerous. However, if you get too much of the PSP toxin in your system, you can eventually get severely sick and even die.

What Are The Symptoms Of PSP Poisoning?

Initially, your lips and tongue will start feeling a tingling sensation. This sensation will then travel down to your fingers and toes, and you may eventually become paralyzed. In the end stages, you will have a problem breathing, which can lead to your death.