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Press Release

Health alert on consumption of big tiger grouper

May 14, 1998

The Department of Health (DH) today reminded the public of the risk of ciguatera food poisoning in the consumption of big tiger grouper.

A spokesman for the Department said in the past few days, there were 12 ciguatera food poisoning cases involving 40 persons. Most cases were related to the consumption of big tiger grouper over five kilogrammes.

He said that these fish should have been obtained recently from catches in coral reef area and accounted for a very small portion of fish consumed in Hong Kong.

"The majority of other marine fish on sale in Hong Kong is safe to eat. They are either cultured here or caught from non-coral reef areas."

The spokesman noted that ciguatera food poisoning is not uncommon in tropical areas. It is mainly associated with the consumption of big coral fish which has accumulated the toxin in its body, in particular viscera, muscle and skin, through years of eating small fish that consume toxic algae in coral reef seas.

"The larger the coral reef fish, the higher the chance it contains ciguatera toxin," he said.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Department has reminded seafood traders to exercise discretion in importing coral reef fish. The most effective strategy in minimising such food poisoning, as agreed by health authorities ein other developed countries, is public awareness and education.

To prevent ciguatera food poisoning, members of the public are advised to:-

  • reduce the frequency and amount of eating big tiger grouper for the time being; and
  • avoid eating the viscera, like liver and gonads where the toxin is most concentrated.

People affected by ciguatera toxin may show symptoms such as numbness of the mouth and limbs, muscle weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and reversal feeling of coldness and hotness. Most people fully recovered after treatment.

Members of the public could call DH's health education hotline on 2833 0111 for information on ciguatera food poisoning. Leaflets are also available from the Department's Central Health Education Unit.

  Last Revision Date : 22 March 2007