Lionfish May Contain Ciguatoxins

Ciguatoxins are cause for concern for those who manufacture fish-based food products or for those who consume different seafood regularly.
April 24, 2013

Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration has introduced a new warning that two different types of lionfish have also been found to contain dangerous levels of the toxins.

The Toxins

These poisons are responsible for causing food-borne illness for consumers throughout the world as they have been found in fish in several different waters, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. Fish pick up these ciguatoxins from coral and then store it in their muscles and fat. Some of the fish most commonly known for carrying the toxins include:

  • Moray Eels
  • Grouper
  • Barracuda
  • Mackerel
  • Wrasse
  • Tang
  • Parrotfish
  • Amberjack

Now, lionfish has been added to the list of toxin carrying fish. The two different types of the fish are Pterois miles and Pterois volitans. Any food manufacturers should be aware of this concern, especially if they import fish from the waters around the US Virgin Islands.

The Symptoms

If anyone consumes fish that contain ciguatoxins, they could suffer from a variety of different symptoms, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Additionally, the toxins can cause permanent nerve damage that could result in reversal of hot and cold sensations or the loss of feeling in the extremities. Commonly, these neurological symptoms will last for several years or could be permanent.

Consumers must understand that cooking fish will not kill the ciguatoxins. While many of the contaminants or bacteria in meat products can be easily destroyed by thorough cooking, this is not the case with the toxins. They are heat impervious. Additionally, they cannot be detected by taste or smell. Because of this, it is recommended that all fish on the danger list be avoided for human consumption.

At this time, there are no reports of ciguatoxins exposure in humans as a result of consuming lionfish. However, the amount of the toxins found in fish harvested around the Virgin Islands is considered in the danger zone. The information was tracked and noted through a report released by the Cornell University from the New York Sea Grant. A statement was released from the university through the United States food safety news.

While Australia does not generally import any meat products from other countries without strict regulations, Australian consumers should still be aware of this risk to their health from consuming certain types of fish.