Ciguatera outbreak confirmed in Germany

Mahi_Mahi_blogOfficials in Germany have confirmed an outbreak of ciguatoxin poisoning associated with fish.

Scientists believe there is a correlation between increases in ciguatoxin poisoning (also called ciguatera) outbreaks and more exotic fish being consumed globally, states the German Federal Insitute for Risk Assessment (BfR). The outbreak occurred near the end of last year and consisted of 14 cases, all linked to red snapper.

This is the first time a ciguatoxin outbreak in Germany has been linked to products purchased in Germany. Typically, ciguatera is associated with travel to tropical or subtropical countries, BfR notes.

“Ciguatoxin poisoning is one of the most common types of fish poisoning worldwide,” said Professor Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the BfR, in a statement. “However, this type of poisoning was confined to certain regions of the world until recently. As a result of the worldwide trade with tropical and subtropical fish, an increase in incidence of such poisoning is to be expected.”

Ciguatera poisoning occurs when humans consume fish containing ciguatoxin, which is produced by the algae Gambierdiscus toxicus. These toxins can build up in the muscle tissue, organs and fat of large fish that live on reefs such as snapper, mackerel, seabass, mahi-mahi and tuna. In fact, more than 400 species of fish can carry the toxin, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Cooking does not deactivate the toxin. Additionally, the toxin cannot be detected by sight or taste. Symptoms of ciguatera range from vomiting and diarrhea to tingling in the extremities and aching teeth. These symptoms can reoccur months or even years after ingesting the toxin.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a draft guidance listing the species of fish associated with ciguatera. The list included two species of lionfish that previously had not been included, according to Food Safety News.

For a fact sheet on ciguatera, click here.

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