So, you decide that the best way to use those still-glowing coals is to throw on those fresh shrimp that just never made it to the grill. You peel, devein and sprinkle them with salt, and then head back outside to stir the coals. Your frugal spouse flips off the kitchen light. You re-enter the darkened kitchen to discover — the shrimp are glowing eerily in the dark.
No, it isn’t science fiction. According to Oregon State University’s Sea Grant Extension specialists, it’s perfectly natural — and perfectly safe.
In a press release issued Monday, OSU Sea Grant Extension Specialist Kaety Hildenbrand, who works with coastal fishing communities, said marine bacteria can cause glowing or luminescence when they grow on seafood products – a trait that may be exacerbated by the adding of salt during processing.
That should come as reassuring news to Oregonians who recently purchased pink shrimp at the coast or at large retail stores. They have called OSU’s Lincoln County Extension Office in Newport over the past week to report that their seafood was glowing in the dark.
“This is a situation that pops up on occasion and this seems to be a banner year for glowing seafood,” Hildenbrand said in the release. “One person turned her lights off to watch a movie and her shrimp salad started to glow. Another man left his pink shrimp on the counter to thaw, and when he got up, it was glowing ... .
“People are calling to ask about safety and we’re assuring them there’s nothing wrong with their seafood,” she added. “I’ve even seen glow-in-the-dark salmon before.”
One reason many people haven’t seen luminescent seafood is that they rarely prepare cooked shrimp, crabmeat and other products in the dark. According to the Sea Grant Extension program at the University of California, there are numerous marine bacteria that can cause luminescence, including Alternomonas hanedai, Photobacterium phosphoreum, P. leiognathi, Vibrio fischeri, V. harveyi, V. logei and V. splendidus. Some can grow at refrigerator temperatures — especially on seafood products where salt has been added during processing.
Such bacterial growth is normal, said OSU Sea Grant Extension specialist Jeff Feldner, a former commercial fisherman.
“These occurrences actually have gone on for years,” he said, “and there haven’t been reports of illness from luminous marine bacteria.”
The OSU Extension specialists suggest consumers keep cooked seafood products chilled at temperatures as close to 32 degrees as possible, and to consume these products within a day or two of purchase.