Why is it important?
Five people in wales became ill after eating mackerel contaminated with histamine due to chilled storage above 8OC. The catering company was fined £2,500 in 2019 after pleading to storing food likely to support the growth of pathogenic bacteria or the formation of toxins. This case highlights the important of implementing and maintaining an effective HACCP system and thorough food safety training.
What is Scombroid Toxin Food Poisoning?
Scombroid toxin poisoning is a foodborne illness caused by consuming certain species of spoiled fish including tuna, mackerel, anchovy, herring, bluefish, sardines, pilchards, marlin and even salmon. Spoilage occurs when fish is mishandled and exposed to evaluated temperatures above 4OC for an extended period. Naturally occurring bacteria found on the skin and in the gills and gut of fish covert a harmless amino acid called histidine into histamine. The process starts soon as fish is harvested and can continue even after spoilage bacteria has been inactivated or destroyed. Histamine production is slow during chilled storage or stable when frozen and cannot be destroyed by normal temperatures. Dangerous levels of histamine in fish is mainly due to high temperature abuse rather than relatively low temperature spoilage. Most cases of scombroid toxic food poisoning have been caused by levels of histamine above 200mg/kg, but levels as low as 50mg/kg are known to cause illness.
What are the symptoms?
Onset of histamine poisoning symptoms is usually within 30 minutes to several hours following ingestion of contaminated fish. Severity of the illness can vary depending level of exposure to the toxin and susceptibility of the affected individual. Typical signs of poisoning include:
- tingling/burning sensation around the mouth and lips
- A peppery taste sensation
- Skin rash
- Abdominal cramps
Duration of symptoms rarely exceeds one day and usually last between 4 to 6 hours.
What are the Control Measures?
- Strict temperature control should be maintained throughout all stages of the food chain. Fish and fish product should be kept at or below at 40C or below.
- Preparation and display at ambient temperature should be minimised.
- Follow manufacturing instructions for storage of pre-packaged fish and fish products.
- If scombroid fish is on the menu, make sure your HACCP system identifies and controls this naturally occurring chemical hazard.
- Train you food handler in effective food safety procedures and check competency regularly.
Contact us for more information about how we can train your team. We offer accredited Level 2,3 and 4 Food Safety and HACCP training.