Everything you need to know about Scombrotoxic Food Poisoning

Scombrotoxic/Scombroid food poisoning is a type of foodborne allergy caused by the consumption of a certain type of fish that has begun to spoil. It is a type of food poisoning that should be taken very seriously as it can have dire consequences. Below we explain all you need to know about Scombrotoxic food poisoning.

What type of fish can cause Scombrotoxic Food Poisoning?

Scombridae types of fish such as tuna, mackerel, sardine, and anchovy are commonly known types of fish that are commonly associated with this particular food poisoning. Then you have the more uncommonly consumed Scombridae fish such as bluefish, amberjack, and marlin. There are other fish in the Scombridae family, however, they aren’t often consumed.

Why is there such a risk of food poisoning with Scombridae fish?

Scombridae fish such as tuna, mackerel, sardine, anchovy, bluefish, amberjack, and marlin contain a naturally high level of an amino acid known as histidine, which can develop into histamine when bacteria grows. Bacteria can develop due to incorrect storage, refrigeration, handling, and processing. Scombroid poisoning occurs when said spoiled fish is consumed.

Are some people more prone to Scrombrotoxic Food Poisoning than others?

Although Scrombrotoxic Food Poisoning is not a food allergy some people are more prone to it than others. Various studies show that people who are histamine-intolerant could have a deficiency of diamine oxidase, located in the small intestinal mucosa. This deficiency causes increased absorption of histamine in the gut – thus resulting in a higher risk of Scombrotoxic food poisoning.

How can I prevent Scombrotoxic Food Poisoning?

Freezing or refrigerating Scombridae fish as soon as it is caught is recommended to reduce the chance of the bacteria/histamine growing. Fish need to be iced immediately when caught – then frozen. After that, it then needs to be kept at a cold, regulated temperature and handled in a hygienic and safe manner. Unfortunately, cooking or freezing doesn’t eliminate histamine in spoiled fish – it should be disposed of immediately and never consumed.

What are the symptoms of Scombrotoxic Food Poisoning?

There are an array of initial symptoms such as; nausea, dizziness, sweating, headache, tachycardia, and swelling or burning sensation in the mouth or throat. These initial symptoms can quickly become more serious – potentially leading to edema, sickness, diarrhea, stomach cramps rashes on the face or body. In worst-case scenarios, this can lead to vision issues, breathing difficulties, swelling of the tongue, and in rare cases, death.

How long does it take for symptoms to show?

Symptoms of Scombrotoxic food poisoning usually appear within 30 minutes of consumption. Initially, they can appear akin to regular food poisoning symptoms but can develop rapidly, and more severely.

How is Scombroid Poisoning diagnosed and treated?

Scombroid is very different from a fish allergy, and sometimes it is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are very similar. Usually, a blood test is required to tell both apart. Treatment includes antihistamines, and intravenous fluids if the symptoms are mild. If severe then epinephrine with steroids could possibly be used. You should always seek professional medical treatment and advice if you feel any of these symptoms.

When should I call a doctor for Scombrotoxic Food Poisoning?

If you have a severe or prolonged reaction you should call a medical professional immediately – especially if symptoms include shortness of breath, hypertension, tongue or throat swelling. Symptoms like this require medical treatment as soon as possible. This could be a medical emergency – please contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Can I treat Scombroid Poisoning at home?

It is recommended that you seek medical advice as your first port of call. If a medical professional confirms that you have a mild case of Scombroid Poisoning then there are a couple of first aid methods you can try at home. These include self-induced vomiting, antihistamines, and keeping yourself hydrated – small sips of water often. Without any treatment, mild cases of Scombroid Poisoning usually pass within 12 hours.

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