Home » Industry Issues » Food Safety » Ciguatera

Giguatera in Seafood

Ciguatera is an unusual form of food poisoning caused by eating large reef fish which have eaten smaller fish, which have eaten algae, which shelter a tiny organism called a dinoflagellate, which produces a toxin that causes ciguatera. Within 24 hours symptoms emerge including numbness around the fingers, toes and mouth, a burning sensation when in contact with cold, joint pain, nausea, itchiness and for people with high sensitivity, breathing difficulties. The symptons will depend on how much fish was eaten, how much toxin in i the fish and the susceptible of the consumer. Problems may be encountered with eating coral trout, spanish mackerel, reef cod, barracuda, emperor, groper, sturgeon, trevally and kingfish. Ciguatera toxin does not affect the appearance, odour or taste of fish. Processes like cooking and freezing will not destroy or remove it from the fish. Any customer concerned for their health should contact their doctor.

Ciguatera in NSW

Ciguartera poisoning is uncomon in the southern states, with most cases occuring as a result of recreational catches in Queensland and the Northern Territory. In NSW, Sydney Fish Market has introducted strict guidelines to restrict potentially contaminated fish from being sold at the wholesale auction. The restrictions include rejection of potentially contaminated fish from prohibited supply regions and the introduction of maximum size limits for some tropical reef fish. Since implementing these guidelines about five years ago, no known cases of Ciguatera from fish sold through Sydney Fish Market have been reported. The NSW Food Authority also requires seafood processors to reject species know to be associated with ciguatera, and reject certain species based on catch location and size.

Further Information:

Ciguatera Information – NSW Food Authority

Ciguatera Fact Sheet – Queensland Health

Ciguatera Fact Sheet – Northern Territory Government