FISH may not be such a healthy food for those people living in the Florida region of the United States, new research has shown.
A report just out found that the number of people poisoned in the holiday state every year by a serious food-borne toxin carried by reef fish may be significantly under-reported in public health records.
The study published by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene finds that the rate of poisoning was previously estimated to be 0.2 cases per 100,000 people.
But this new study says that a more realistic number is estimated to be approaching 5.6 cases per 100,000 people.
The danger toxin is known as ciguatera (pronounced sig-WAH-terra) and is known to be carried by fish such as barracuda, grouper, amberjack, snapper, tuna and sea bass.
Warnings already exist concerning the consumption of barracuda, but these do not extend to other popular sports fish. Sea warming is being looked at a possible cause.
Epidemiologist and main author Elizabeth Radke said: ‘I think there is a broader awareness the farther south you go that barracuda are carriers but perhaps not as much awareness that a fish like grouper or amberjack can carry ciguatera.’
She also believes that people should not be too worried about the potential dangers of eating fish such as grouper and amberjack that are less closely associated with ciguatera than barracuda.
Ciguatera is a toxin found in algae that grows on coral reefs. The poisoning can lead to diarrhoea and also vomiting which can be particularly dangerous among the elderly and very young.
Radke said: ‘I don’t think that people necessarily need to stop eating these other fish, but they need to be aware there is a risk, and if they start feeling sick after eating, they should see a physician.’