Scombroid Poisoning

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Scombroid poisoning is unusual in that it is caused by a number of otherwise harmless microbes when they grow on insufficiently chilled mackerels of the genus Scomber and other similarly active swimmers, including tuna, mahimahi, bluefish, herring, sardine, and anchovy. Within half an hour of eating one of these contaminated fish, even fully cooked, the victim suffers from temporary headache, rash, itching, nausea, and diarrhea. The symptoms are apparently caused by a number of toxins including histamine, a substance that our cells use to signal each other in response to damage; antihistamine drugs give some relief.