In my previous article on shellfish and crustaceans I referred to instances of when seafood became contaminated once it was out of the sea. There are many forms of seafood poisoning and I would like to talk of one of the more problematic and undetectable forms of seafood poisoning that we encounter quite often.
In the field of food hygiene we must also look at the condition of food which has been caught in the wild. This includes the world’s fisheries industry. Wild sea food, particularly that which has been caught on or around coral reefs, is thought to be superior to sources which are grown by aquaculture technologies. Locus, red snapper, lobster and shrimp caught and served fresh from the coral reef are prized as delicacies.
All creatures that live on the coral reef are part of a food chain. Everybody is eaten by somebody else eventually. The food chain begins with single cell creatures such as plankton. Some forms of plankton emit a toxin called “ciguatoxin”. The reaction to this toxin in humans is called “ciguatera”. (sig-ua-terra).
The plankton enters the food chain at the bottom end where it is eaten my small coral reef creatures. The small creatures are eaten by bigger ones until, finally we arrive at the sea creatures that we love to sea on our plates at the seafood restaurant.
It is important to stress that although the toxin is released into the flesh of the fish it has little or no effect upon them and they can continue to live out there lives and function quite well despite being infected by the toxin. The toxin tends to accumulate mostly in the liver, pancreas, gills and head but is also present in potentially problematic concentrations throughout the muscle tissue as well.
Cases of ciguatera are seen mostly where raw seafood flesh is served but it is important to stress that the toxin is not destroyed or neutralized by the cooking process nor is it destroyed by the powerful acid (HCl) which is present in our stomachs during the digestive process.
The reaction experienced by victims of ciguatera include all or most of the classic allergic reaction symptoms. Sufferers may experience sweating, dizziness, nausea, fainting, tightness of breath, burning of the mouth, itchiness, rashes, blurring of the vision and other symptoms.
This may sound frightening but although highly unpleasant, Ciguatera is very rarely fatal, especially if the victim arrives promptly to a place where he or she can receive modern medical treatment. Patients usually make a full recover within three to five days.
Some cases can be fatal but these cases are usually where people have severe medical conditions or other sensitivities that can be sparked off in conjunction with the symptoms of Ciguatera.
The only way to protect yourself is never to eat seafood in restaurants in locations that you have no prior knowledge of. Prefer to eat fish species from the open sea or freshwater sources. Eat or buy seafood from reputable businesses that have no previously reported incidences of Ciguatera.