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Diners Eat Raw Crabs on Dare, Get Sick

September 9, 2006

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ All eight diners who came down with a rare lung infection after eating raw shellfish consumed live sawagani crabs on a dare, health officials said Friday.

Health investigators said the crabs, which are usually served fried, were eaten at various restaurants including Riptide Rockin’ Sushi & Teppan Grill in Mission Viejo and Chomp Rockin’ Sushi & Teppan Grill in Fullerton.

Both restaurants are owned by Dan Lauriano who has said some diners apparently started a tradition where they would reach into a jar of live crabs and devour them raw as their friends cheered them on.

``It was kind of like ’Fear Factor,‴ said Adrian Guerrero, manager at the Mission Viejo restaurant, referring to the television show.

``I never saw anyone just come in and say they wanted them raw,″ Guerrero said. ``But after having a few beers or cocktails or sake″ they would rise to the challenge.

The results were not pretty, and after some of his patrons became sick the owner stopped ordering the crabs from the distributor.

Six to 10 weeks after they downed the crabs, participants ended up with a parasite carried by the crab that migrates from the intestines to the lungs and causes lung fluke infection.

Symptoms, which can take as long as 10 weeks to surface, include coughing, diarrhea, breathing problems, abdominal pain, fever and hives.

If left untreated ``it can turn into a very serious lung infection or, in fact, impact the brain,″ said Deanne Thompson, spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency. Thompson said the crab distributor has voluntarily attached warning on his shipments.

No other cases have been reported in the state.

``Most restaurants serve them flash fried but occasionally I guess people get it into their heads to eat them raw or live and that’s a bad idea,″ Thompson said.

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