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Health officials warn of ciguatera in some local fish species

Cancun, Q.R. — Health officials around the region are pulling fish from public markets after they say some of the species run a risk of poisoning.

Officials from la Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios (Cofepris) say that they have seized 136 kilos of fish from public markets, mostly in Cancun, due to the risk of toxicity or being found in overall poor condition.

Head of Cofepris, Miguel Angel Pino Murillo reports that to date, 136 kilos of fish have been removed from being sold in markets, adding that 88 kilos of the seized fish were barracuda. He explained that the sale of barracuda is currently restricted due to the risk of ciguatera.

“We have confiscated more than 136 kilos of seafood, mainly barracuda because during the season, due to the issue of the ciguata, its sale and consumption is prohibited,” he explained, adding that the operations have been carried out mainly in markets and tianguis.

Photo: la Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios

“It is in this season when the most seafood is consumed, therefore it is necessary to take care that its management is adequate,” he added.

According to IAMAT, ciguatera fish poisoning is the most common seafood illness and is caused by eating fish contaminated with ciguatoxins, small marine organisms living on or near coral reefs. Herbivorous fish feed on these organisms and the ciguatoxins bio-accumulate along the marine food chain to larger predatory fish.

Ciguatera fish poisoning commonly occurs in tropical and subtropical areas, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Any reef fish can cause ciguatera poisoning, but species such as barracuda, grouper, red snapper, moray eel, amberjack, parrotfish, hogfish, sturgeonfish, kingfish, coral trout, and sea bass are the most commonly affected.

Ciguatoxins are concentrated in the fish liver, intestines, heads, and roe. The toxins do not affect the taste, texture, or odour of the fish and cannot be destroyed by cooking, smoking, freezing, salting or any other method of food preparation.

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