Two restaurants in Lanzarote are thought to have been the source of ciguatera poisoning this year.
We love eating fresh fish in Lanzarote and can honestly say that we’ve never suffered any form of food poisoning in the years of living on this island. As we hadn’t heard of ciguatera before, we dug a little deeper into what this is and how it can end up on our plates.
Ciguatera is found in predator fish that eat other fish such as barracuda, moray eel, parrot fish, grouper and amberjack. Fish living off the reef can become contaminated with toxins from dinoflagellates found on coral, algae and seaweed. The herbivorous fish eat this, which in turn are eaten by carnivorous fish allowing the toxin to move up the food chain. Ciguatoxin is heat resistant so the food is not detoxed by conventional cooking methods.
The unnamed restaurants are believed to have purchased fish through non official outlets and the Ministry of Health are considering appropriate action. The first outbreak was reported after eating amberjack in February 2012. The diners suffered with vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain several hours later. The second case was in early April affecting six people who live in Lanzarote and had all eaten amberjack at a local restaurant.
If you do suffer with food poisoning it’s good to report it so that the cause will be investigated, we have a system in place called Sistema de Vigilancia Epidemiológica de la Intoxicación por Ciguatera en Canarias (SVEICC). The investigation will look into when and where the fish was caught recording the weight, size and origin of the species as well as the point of sale. It’s also essential to collect a sample consumed for analysis as well as immobilising any remaining fish involved to prevent further consumption.
There are health control checks in official point of sale outlets for this toxin to prevent contaminated fish entering the market place.
You cannot taste ciguatera as it doesn’t affect the flavor of the fish, it is resistant to freezing and cooking. The symptoms appear from one to several hours after ingestion and can last up to 8 days. Other symptoms include headache, muscle and joint pain, general itching as well as a sensitive phenomena where sufferers can have a tingling or burning feeling in extremities, facial pain, heat and cold sensation.
It is very important to keep a sample of the fish consumed if you are ill so that the presence of ciguatoxin can be detected, it is not possible to diagnose from the patient.