EXCLUSIVE

Histamine poisoning caused by tuna in Luxembourg

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tuna. Picture: iStock
Tuna. Picture: iStock
Five people were sickened in Luxembourg last month by sashimi tuna fillets from the Netherlands, with raw material from Sri Lanka.

Cactus, a supermarket in the country, recalled two tuna products and informed authorities following the suspicion of histamine.

L’Administration des Services Vétérinaires (ASV) told us that initially two people fell sick and investigations revealed three more illnesses.

Establishing the connection

The link was made as all people with symptoms had eaten tuna from the same Cactus store.

High levels of histamine in fish may cause an allergic reaction after consumption.

In the product, histamine can be detected and quantified by laboratory analysis and in people, it is mainly based on symptoms.

ASV said such poisoning is rare but sporadic and unpredictable which makes it difficult to exclude future outbreaks.

‘Filet de Thon sashimi’ and ‘brochettes de poisson mixte nature et marinées’ were sold in bulk or packaged trays between 12 and 14 April with expiry dates of 14, 15 or 16 April.

Products were distributed in Luxembourg in Cactus stores.

ASV analysed some of the remaining tuna from the same batch sold in the store that customers complained about and from another Cactus store from the same lot and analyses were mostly compliant.

The agency said the presence of histamine was not due to poor quality but concentration at high levels was limited to a specific location of the tuna.

It added previous analysis on the supplier confirmed the compliance of tuna delivered to Cactus.

EU investigation

There is no connection between the Luxembourg outbreak and the EU investigation involving 11 countries of tuna intended for canning being sold as fresh.

Europol, Interpol and the EU Food Fraud Network discovered Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, UK, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland were involved. More than 51 tons of tuna was seized.

Tuna for canning was illegally treated with vegetable extracts containing a high concentration of nitrites to alter colour and give the impression of freshness.

This can represent a risk to health as modification of colour can mask spoilage allowing development of biological amines (histamine) responsible for scombroid syndrome.

In 2017, more than 150 people​ in Spain were affected after consuming illegally treated tuna.

Spain and France are continuing to investigate tuna destined for canning and sold as fresh and the illegal use of additives.

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