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.
Ciguatera fish poisoning
Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP), also known simply as ciguatera, is a foodborne illness caused by eating reef fish whose flesh is contaminated with certain toxins. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, numbness, itchiness, sensitivity to hot and cold, dizziness, and weakness. The onset of symptoms varies with the amount of toxin eaten from half an hour to up to two days. The diarrhea may last for up to four days. Some symptoms typically remain for a few weeks to months. Heart difficulties such as slow heart rate and low blood pressure may also occur.
The specific toxins involved are ciguatoxin and maitotoxin. They are originally made by a small marine organism, Gambierdiscus toxicus, that grow on and around coral reefs in tropical and subtropical waters. These are eaten by herbivorousfish which in turn are eaten by larger carnivorous fish. The toxins become more concentrated as they move up the food chain. The fish most often implicated include barracuda, grouper, moray eel, amberjack, sea bass, and sturgeon. Diagnosis is based on a person’s symptoms together with having recently eaten fish. If a number of those who eat the same fish develop symptoms the diagnosis becomes more likely. If some of the fish they had previously eaten is available this can also be tested to confirm the diagnosis.
Preventive efforts include not eating reef fish, not eating high-risk fish such as barracuda, and not eating fish liver, roe, or fish heads. Ciguatoxin has no taste or smell, and cannot be destroyed by conventional cooking. There is no specific treatment for ciguatera fish poisoning once it occurs. Mannitol may be considered, but the evidence supporting its use is not very strong.Gabapentin or amitriptyline may be used to treat some of the symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that around 50,000 cases occur globally each year. Other estimates suggest up to 500,000 cases per year. It is the most frequent seafood poisoning. It occurs most commonly in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea between the latitudes of 35°N and 35°S. The risk of the condition appears to be increasing due to coral reef deterioration and increasing trade in seafood. The risk of death from poisoning is less than 1 in 1,000.Descriptions of the condition date back to at least 1511. The current name came into use in 1787.
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