The substance ciguatoxin is only found in fish from tropical and subtropical seas. For some years now, cases of ciguatera have been reported with increasing frequency in Europe, in particular on the Spanish and Portuguese islands in the Atlantic but also in Germany. New information indicates that these toxins are increasingly prevalent in the Mediterranean. The global trade of imported fish is another reason for the increasing occurrence of ciguatoxin poisoning in Europe. “Fish should be a regular part of the diet”, says BfR-President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. “Ciguatera is a very rare form of fish poisoning in Germany. The reported cases have been caused by the consumption of contaminated tropical predatory fish such as various snapper species.” These include Lutjanus bohar (two-spot red snapper), Lutjanus argentimaculatus, Lutjanus erythropterus (crimson snapper) or Pinjalo pinjalo.
A cooperation project on ciguatoxin food poisoning involving 13 organisations from six Member States and EFSA is taking shape. Representatives of Spain and EFSA signed a Framework Partnership Agreement on 19 April 2016 to carry out a four-year project on risk characterisation of ciguatera food poisoning in Europe.
Ciguatoxin is found in fish that feed on a microorganism that produces the toxic substance. Consumers eating affected fish can suffer from a range of symptoms including gastrointestinal and neurological effects.
Since 2008, Spain and Portugal have reported outbreaks of ciguatoxin food poisoning in the Canary Islands and Madeira. New findings suggest the microorganism is becoming more widespread in the Mediterranean.