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Misc. News : Recalls & Alerts Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

FDA warns of ciguatera fish poisoning risk
By Sue Mueller
Feb 6, 2008 - 2:11:39 PM

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WEDNESDAY FEB 6, 2008 ( -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Feb 5 sent a letter to seafood processors, informing them that there are cases of ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) linked to consuming fish carrying the ciguatera toxin.

The toxic fish of concern were harvested in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which is located in federal waters south of the Texas-Louisiana coastline, the FDA said.

FDA said CFP from fish caught in this geographical area is extremely rare until recently several outbreaks have been confirmed in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, Mo.

The cases have prompted FDA now to consider CFP a food safety hazard that is reasonably likely to occur in grouper, snapper, and hogfish captured within 10 miles of the marine sanctuary and amberjack, barracuda and other wide-ranging species captured within 50 miles of the sanctuary.

Seafood processors who purchase reef fish and other potentially ciguatoxic fish directly from fishermen were urged in the letter to reassess their current hazard analyses and update their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans as necessary.

Under FDA's seafood HACCP regulation, fish processors are obliged to implement written plans to control food safety hazards.

Ciguatera poisoning is caused by eating tropical reef fish that have assimilated ciguatoxins through the marine food chain from toxic microscopic algae.  The toxin couldn't be destroyed by coking or freezing.  Fish with the toxin do not look different from nontoxic fish.  Only testing results may tell which is toxic.

Patients suffering ciguatera poisoning experience nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness and tingling of the mouth, hands or feet; joint pain; muscle pain; headache; reversal of hot and cold sensation (such that cold objects feel hot and vice versa); sensitivity to temperature changes; vertigo, and muscular weakness, according to the FDA.  

The poisoning could also trigger cardiovascular problems, including irregular heartbeat and reduced blood pressure.

Symptoms usually develop within hours of eating a toxic fish and disappear within a few weeks, in some cases months or years. Although there is no antidote for CFP, CFP is rarely fatal. Symptoms can be treated most effectively if diagnosed by a doctor within 72 hours.

For more information on ciguatera fish poisoning, visit

Fish that carry


black grouper black grouper [external link] blackfin snapper blackfin snapper [external link] cubera snapper cubera snapper [external link] dog snapperdog snapper [external link] barracuda barracuda [external link]
greater amberjack greater amberjack [external link] hogfish hogfish
  [external link]
horse-eye jack horse-eye jack [external link] king mackerel king mackerel [external link] yellowfin grouper yellowfin grouper [external link]

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