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Category: 09-Science

Naturally Occurring Fish and Shellfish Poisons

Ciguatera Poisoning -- The effects of the neurotoxins that can contaminate fish like red snapper and grouper can last for decades.

Fish poisoning, principally ciguatera and scombroid fish poisoning, was responsible for 17.8% of all confirmed food-borne disease outbreaks listed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1978-1987. Naturally, toxic fish and shellfish cannot be distinguished from nontoxic animals by sensory inspection, and the toxins are not destroyed by normal cooking or processing. Except for scombroid fish poisoning, natural intoxications are both highly regional and species associated, and toxins are present in the fish or shellfish at the time of capture. Scombroid poisoning is due to histamine produced by bacteria multiplying on certain fish that are mishandled after capture, and illnesses are widely reported from different states.