People are being warned to beware after a report of palm oil being washed up on a South Devon beach.
Torbay Council’s beach team has investigated the report of the substance which can make dogs ill being washed ashore at Babbacombe Beach at Torquay.
A statement confirmed there may be traces there and warned people to look out for the white waxy substance, which can be contaminated with bacteria and other substances.
The statement said: “Please be vigilant when using beaches and coastline following stormy weather.”
Wembury Marine Centre, near Plymouth, has warned pieces of the oil washed ashore can make dogs ill.
It said: “Palm oil clumps can easily be mistaken for cuttlefish bones… but they have a waxy texture and can give off a chemical like smell.
“Please be extremely vigilant when walking your dog or with small children as these pieces can be poisonous!”
Vets warn that palm oil can be legally discarded by shipping, but when washed ashore can be contaminated with bacteria.
It can be washed up during storms in large chunks, or broken down into smaller pea-sized amounts.
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil used in food, toiletries and as a biofuel, and by ships to clean fuel tanks.
Vets Now said: “While palm oil is not poisonous to dogs, it does have a laxative effect and, if eaten, can cause sickness, diarrhoea, dehydration and, in extreme cases, pancreatitis.
“It can also cause blockages in the gut due to its semi-solid state.
“Some dogs have become seriously ill after ingesting palm oil.
“Much of the risk from palm oil is thought to derive from other toxic products mixed in it such a diesel oil from ships.”
In 2014 several dogs died and many needed treatment after palm oil washed up on Cornish beaches.
At the time Claire Wallerstein, of Rame Peninsula Beach Care, said: “It’s incredibly dangerous.
“Dozens of dogs have died in Cornwall and people need to know that it’s around.
“We want to warn people about it, we want people to be aware and careful with their dogs at the beach.
“They need to get their dogs to the vets as soon as possible if they think they might have eaten any of this stuff, or they could die.
“It’s perfectly legal for ships to dump it into the sea – hopefully at some point the law will be changed because obviously this stuff is dangerous and it shouldn’t be legal.”