How Do I Prevent Food Poisoning from Fish?

Madeleine A.

Food poisoning from fish can generally be avoided by properly preparing and storing fish and by avoiding species of fish known to be contaminated with disease-producing organisms. Ciguatera poisoning is usually caused by eating contaminated reef fish, so avoiding these fish can prevent food poisoning from fish. Some fish species to avoid are grouper, sturgeon, and king mackerel. To avoid scombroid fish poisoning, avoid eating tuna, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. In addition, properly refrigerating fish may reduce the risk of illness.

Vomiting is common with food poisoning.
Vomiting is common with food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning from fish include facial flushing, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In addition, in the case of ciguatera poisoning, muscle aches, itchy or tingly skin, and changes in the ability to ascertain cold or hot temperatures may occur. The symptoms of food poisoning from fish can last one or two weeks in the case of ciguatera poisoning. Cases of scombroid poisoning, however, typically last for about 24 hours. Although food poisoning from fish can cause extreme illness, it is rarely fatal.

Meals that include raw fish must be prepared according to exacting specifications.
Meals that include raw fish must be prepared according to exacting specifications.

Food poisoning is generally treated with an antihistamine. Since antihistamines block or inhibit histamines in the blood, they are effective for treating certain allergic reactions, such as hives and facial flushing. Histamine accumulates in certain fish after they've gotten too warm, and if not properly refrigerated after being caught, the excess histamine can be released into the body, causing the severe reaction.

Food poisoning from fish is not the only way that foodborne illnesses make people ill. The salmonella bacteria, which is found in raw eggs and unpasteurized products, cause food poisoning symptoms, such as severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever. This can be transmitted from person to person if cooks and diners do not properly wash their hands.

Treatment for food poisoning caused by a bacterial organisms includes oral antibiotics. When severe diarrhea and vomiting are present, adequate fluid intake is important to prevent dehydration. Preventing food poisoning can be a simple as cooking meat, poultry, and fish thoroughly and maintaining scrupulous hygiene.

Severe cases of food poisoning can require hospitalization. Medications that control diarrhea are typically not recommended to treat food poisoning from fish. These medications slow the elimination of toxins or bacteria from the system, worsening the condition and delaying the healing process. If vomiting is a problem, drinking sports drinks can replace fluids and electrolytes lost by vomiting.

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Discussion Comments


@rundocuri- Those are good tips for eating fish safely. Don't forget to avoid eating raw fish. Though many people consider certain raw fish to be delicacies, they are really taking risks for food poisoning when they eat them.


You do not have to give up on eating the types of fish that you love for fear of getting food poisoning. If you are planning to cook fish at home, make sure that you cook it thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit before eating it. If you are eating fish at a restaurant, ask for it to be cooked well-done.

After eating your fish meal, make sure that you refrigerate any leftovers promptly. When you are ready to eat your fish leftovers, make sure that you heat them thoroughly in the oven or microwave, or on the stovetop.

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