7 Customers Showed Symptoms of Scombroid Fish Poisoning after Eating in a Sydney Café

Seven people fell ill and showed symptoms of scombroid poisoning after eating from the same food outlet in the Sydney CBD, Soul Origin café, in late February 2015. The tuna, which was served in sandwiches at the café, was suspected to have caused scombroid poisoning.


source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-26/scombroid-fish-poisoning-linked-to-sydney-cafe-tuna/6263120

The New South Wales (NSW) Food Authority in Australia investigated that the canned product “John Bull Tuna Chunky Style in Sunflower Oil”, which Soul Origin café used, is a product of Thailand and imported into Australia by a Victorian company. This minor brand was used predominately in catering; it was not generally available to the public. The outbreak was not widespread and all affected product was removed from the market immediately.


source: http://ausfoodnews.com.au/2015/03/11/canned-tuna-food-safety-scare-linked-to-thai-factory.html

The NSW Food Authority tested the leftover tuna salad at the café to have 3950 micrograms of histamine per kilogram of tuna. The test result was well above the acceptable limit of 200 micrograms histamine per kilogram of fish.

Scombroid poisoning is an allergic-type reaction to elevated levels of histamine in fish. It occurs when an enzyme produced by naturally occurring bacteria in certain fish species (including tuna, sardines, mackerel, swordfish, and marlin) convert histidine in the fish to histamine. Elevated levels of histamine amino acids in the fish produce cause the food poisoning. The temperature abuse of the fish produce at the catching or processing stage is usually the cause of the scombroid poisoning. The presence of high level of histamine in fish shows that decomposition of fish produce has occurred. The histamine toxin is not inactivated by ordinary cooking methods, and the contaminated fish will not necessarily appear spoiled.

Symptoms of histamine poisoning occur quickly, usually within 30 minutes or a few hours upon ingestion of contaminated fish. The symptoms typically last for a few hours. However, in some cases, they can last for several days. Common symptoms of histamine poisoning including peppery or metallic taste sensation, tingling of mouth and lips, skin rash or itchy skin, headaches, and dizziness; nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur in some cases. People with scombroid poisoning may be treated with antihistamines. Scombroid poisoning is rarely fatal, but it was thought to have killed a Australian mother and daughter, Noelene and Yvana Bischoff, while they were on vacation in Bali in January 2014. However, the case is extremely rare.

Here is the news article on the tragedy happened in Bali:

Histamine poisoning is rare, and there have been less than 10 outbreaks of histamine poisoning with 187 people diagnosed with the poisoning in Australia over the past 10 years.

Since histamine is not destroyed by heat treatments, buying seafood from reputable sources to ensure the product is kept refrigerated when it is being transported and stored becomes the best way to protect us against scombroid poisoning.

News sources & Reference:
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2015. Scombroid Fish Poisoning Linked to Sydney Café after Four Customers Fall Ill. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-26/scombroid-fish-poisoning-linked-to-sydney-cafe-tuna/6263120

Australian Food News, 2015. Canned Tuna Food Safety Scare Linked to Thai Factory. Retrieved from http://ausfoodnews.com.au/2015/03/11/canned-tuna-food-safety-scare-linked-to-thai-factory.html

Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 2012. Food Safety Facts on Scombroid Poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/fact-sheets/food-poisoning/scombroid/eng/1332280657698/1332280735024

Daily Mail Online, 2014. Australian Mother and Daughter Who Died in Bali Hotel Room Victims of Rare Fish Poison. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2551853/Australian-mother-daughter-died-Bali-hotel-room-victims-RARE-fish-poison-combined-asthma.html

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 2015. Histamine (Scombroid) Fish Poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/safety/Pages/Histamine-(Scombroid)-fish-poisoning.aspx

New South Wales Food Authority, 2015. Update: NSW Food Authority Investigation into Scombroid at Sydney Café. Retrieved from http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/mr-26-Feb-15-scobroid-sydney-cafe#.Vk_Ii0ujZ4U