North Carolina Sea Grant
Mariner's Menu

Mariner's Menu

August 21, 2010 | David Green

seafood is safe to eat

Histamine fish poisoning accounts for one third of all seafood-borne illnesses reported in the United States.

Histamine is present in various amounts in many foods. Fresh fish at harvest, however, are virtually free of histamine, but post-harvest conditions that allow for the growth of spoilage bacteria can result in histamine formation.

Human illness occurs rapidly after ingestion of fish with elevated histamine levels and lasts from several minutes to a few hours. Symptoms include allergic-like responses such as headache, dizziness, swelling of the tongue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Histamine fish poisoning is usually self-limiting, and recovery is complete. Sensitive individuals may need to seek medical treatment.

Histamine is produced by certain spoilage organisms through action of enzymes which converts the amino acid histidine to histamine. The disease is completely preventable by proper icing of fish at harvest and maintaining iced conditions throughout distribution and storage.

For proper icing methods, read “How to Bring Home Your Fish” or for more information on histamine fish poisoning, go to Sea Grant

Contributed by David Green

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