January 12, 2021


European study that explores food poisoning linked to consuming fishery products  wraps up 


A project in Europe that examines the risk of ciguatera - a type of food poisoning associated with the consumption of fishery products that contain toxins produced by a microalgae called Gambierdiscus toxicus - has concluded after close to five years of activity.


An international scientific meeting was held in October for the EuroCigua project which began in April 2016 and ends in January.


Ciguatera does not affect the appearance, odor or taste of the fish and is not destroyed by cooking, refrigeration or freezing. It causes an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 cases per year worldwide and outbreaks have been reported in Spain and Portugal. From 2012 to 2018, four European countries reported 23 ciguatera outbreaks and 167 cases.


Results confirmed the appearance of ciguatera in the European Union, having identified native species of fish with ciguatoxins in Macaronesia, Madeira and the Canary Islands. The presence of Gambierdiscus in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus and Greece was also detected, as well as the first finding in the Balearic Islands.


In regards to the issue of ciguatera, the Spanish Food Safety and Nutrition Agency (AESAN) had organised an online workshop, which was restricted to consortium members and some scientists working on related projects.


The event covered epidemiological data, cases and outbreaks reported in Europe. These include the rate of ciguatoxin-positive fish samples in Madeira and the Canary Islands, an LC-MS/MS method to detect ciguatoxin, the confirmation of Caribbean-CTX-1 as the toxin responsible for contamination of fish in European waters and the potential impact of climate change and globalised markets on ciguatera as an emerging risk in Europe.


The work received a funding of €2 million (US$2.4 million) of which half was financed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the other half by project partners.


EuroCigua was divided into four sub-projects: management and scientific coordination; epidemiology; evaluation of ciguatoxins in seafood and the environment; and characterisation of ciguatoxins present in the EU, including development of reference materials which will help improve techniques to detect these toxins.


Ciguatera is most commonly caused by consuming barracuda, moray eel, grouper, amberjack, sea bass, sturgeon, parrot fish, surgeonfish and red snapper.


- Food Safety NewsKeywords: Fish