Worldwide Presence of Fish toxin is more Rampant than Acknowledged, Study


Eating barracuda is now unsafe to eat. Studies have shown that barracudas, as well as other sport fishes, carry within their system a toxin that is poisonous to humans. The toxin is known as ciguatera and was present in the body of a great barracuda found near Singer Island, Fla. The lead author said that this type of problem is common in fishing communities around the world.

The ones greatly affected in Florida by the poisoning are the Hispanics. It was found that the poisoning is three times more common among them compared to other groups. This is because they are deemed to consume more barracuda as compared to other groups. This is based on the study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. They are not safe even if they cook the fish because cooking and freezing do not affect the toxin.

Elizabeth G. Radke, epidemiologist at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute and lead author of the study, stated that ciguatera can spread going north as ocean waters increase in temperatures. Ciguatera is a toxin produced by algae that thrive in warm waters. These algae are then eaten by coral reef fish and in turn, these fishers are eaten by larger carnivorous fishes. High levels of this toxin have been found in barracudas but are also present in amberjacks,  groupers, snappers, hogfish, mahi-mahi, and mackerels. Although those caught in northern waters are unlikely to contain the toxin, this does not mean that it is impossible because fish move from one place to another.

Dr. Radke has recommended that it would be best not to eat the fish at all. If ever you eat fish and get ill, go to your doctor right away and inform them about it. Also try to preserve the fish that you ate, if there is any left, so experts can have the chance to examine it. The most common sign that you have been exposed to the poison is severe vomiting. Others experience pain and tingling in the hands and feet, mouth, and sometimes leg weakness. Most of the time, patients are able to recover. For some, the neurological symptoms lasts longer. There has been no exact treatment for this toxin. But mannitol, a kind of sugar that is medically helpful, seems to be effective.


The data gathered in the study conducted by Dr. Radke was a combination of poison analysis and an email survey of more than 5,000 sport fisherman. It was found that ciguatera poisoning is 28 times more common among those who fish near Miami, the Florida keys, and the Bahamas. Doctors are obliged to report any ciguatera poisoning diagnosis and it is estimated that 1 in every 500,000 residents are affected each year.