Frozen tuna causes suspected histamine poisoning

When crew members on a shipment vessel fell ill, displaying symptoms similar to associated with histamine poisoning, the food hygiene officers from North East Lincolnshire Council were called in to investigate. They managed to identify the cause of the four cases as a shipment of frozen tuna which had originated in Vietnam.

As histamine levels were found to be above legal limits, it is thought that the consignment had not been kept consistently at the right temperature, thus allowing histamine levels to rise until the tuna posed a risk to human health.

Histamine poisoning can cause a wide range of symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, itching, rashes and a burning sensation in the mouth. They can appear fairly quickly, just a couple of hours after eating the contaminated food and usually die down after sixteen hours or so.

In this case, the consignment was destroyed so as to prevent it from entering the food chain and causing further illness. The principal environmental health officer at North East Lincolnshire Council took the opportunity to remind people that tuna can be a source of histamine poisoning and that fresh tunes should be kept chilled and eaten within the use-by date to reduce the risk of developing these symptoms.