Scrombroid Food Poisoning?

jplee3

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Hey guys,

I have a friend who I gave some yellowfin tuna (belly and loins) back in November and he just ate the belly and ended up getting sick (says symptoms of Scrombroid food poisoning - diarrhea and hives all over his body).

We caught a *ton* of yelllowfin on the trip in November so I spent a lot of time processing it (dividing the loin portions up, vacuum sealing and then freezing) and, unless I already got to vacuum-sealing and freezing what I did, the remainder of fish was kept in the fridge for maybe 2-3 days max.

When I gave the fish to my buddy, it had already been frozen - he was on his way down to SD and so he threw it in a cooler (I think he had maybe a couple ice packs or something) and ended up returning the next day after. He said the fish was thawed out but still cold when he got back home (Pasadena area). He said he re-froze the fish at that point... and then tonight just thawed and cooked it. I'm *guessing* that this may have been brought on from the period that it had initially thawed the first time - I don't know how "cold" it was when he says it was "cold" but I'm tending think not cold enough (especially in just a cooler with no ice and just ice packs).

I haven't eaten any of the bellies yet but have eaten a number of loins (both raw and cooked) as well as prepared it for others, and nobody who I know that has consumed the fish has been impacted. I've given some fish away to others but haven't heard anything - of course, I don't know if they haven't eaten it yet or if they got sick and just haven't said anything. Now I'm a bit paranoid though and also wondering if the risk is higher with the bellies or something.

Anyway, just curious if any of you have gone through this and know what likely caused it. Hopefully my handling of the fish wasn't the cause! I've done a good amount of post-processing like this before and have never gotten sick though.
 

jplee3

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Three days in the fridge. One or two days in your buddy’s cooler. Frozen twice. Sounds like that’s how it spoiled. Spoiled fish usually smells bad and tastes bad.
Is the 2-3 days in the fridge (after the initial catch) before being frozen too long? Ideally it would have been good to shorten that but it was a ton of work and hard to find the dedicated time to get through it all in one shot.

BTW: we fished out of Oceanside - unfortunately no fish processing facilities there or anywhere on the way back to Irvine. If there were, I would have dropped it all off without blinking an eye.

Anyway, I've told my friends/family who I've given the bellies to (at least) to just discard them. We've eaten a number of loins and some collars since (definitely not frozen twice) and no issues with those.
 

yellowfish26

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Its not 100% foolproof but as Croaker Stroker said the "Nose knows".

That being said there are way more variables under your buddies watch than I would like, especially with how much of your own you've already consumed.

Got any in laws or other dickheads in the family who like fish? Sounds like an experiment might be in order... In the name of quality control of course.


Actually don't really do it.
 

jplee3

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Its not 100% foolproof but as Croaker Stroker said the "Nose knows".

That being said there are way more variables under your buddies watch than I would like, especially with how much of your own you've already consumed.

Got any in laws or other dickheads in the family who like fish? Sounds like an experiment might be in order... In the name of quality control of course.


Actually don't really do it.

Yea, that's true. Not sure if my friend really took a whiff or could discern. Not sure if scombroid is one of those things where you can tell based on smell but maybe?

Unfortunately, I'm pretty good with my family members and in-laws at the moment but if anything changes I'll keep that in mind.... LOL!
 

MYNomad

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First off, freezing doesn't kill scrombroid and those toxins are at full force before the fish hits the deck. Second of all, re-freezing doesn't exacerbate spoilage, it slow it down (but it also diminishes quality in terms of texture, consistency and flavor).
Third, three days in the fridge, for a fresh fish that was well cared for, not a store bought fish that has already been in the cooler a couple days before you buy it, is fine. In fact, some think better for many species, but only if the refrigerator is just above freezing. Cheapo refrigerators have hot spots. We keep ours at 33 -34 degrees.
Lastly, all fish will spoil given some combination of time and warmth. If your fried did get sick from the fish (it could have been anything, including an old side dish or sauce or some other food entirely, or maybe not even food), likely it was too warm somewhere along the way (probably his cooler).
 

jplee3

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First off, freezing doesn't kill scrombroid and those toxins are at full force before the fish hits the deck. Second of all, re-freezing doesn't exacerbate spoilage, it slow it down (but it also diminishes quality in terms of texture, consistency and flavor).
Third, three days in the fridge, for a fresh fish that was well cared for, not a store bought fish that has already been in the cooler a couple days before you buy it, is fine. In fact, some think better for many species, but only if the refrigerator is just above freezing. Cheapo refrigerators have hot spots. We keep ours at 33 -34 degrees.
Lastly, all fish will spoil given some combination of time and warmth. If your fried did get sick from the fish (it could have been anything, including an old side dish or sauce or some other food entirely, or maybe not even food), likely it was too warm somewhere along the way (probably his cooler).
Yea I can't help but think it was his cooler, however I also gave him a collar in the same batch (where it all thawed overnight, etc) and he had consumed that (but he ate it I think the day or following day after getting back and didn't refreeze) and didn't report of any issues. Is scromboid something that would perhaps take bigger effect on a certain part of the fish, such as the belly? I have a probe in our fridge and I think it might have been right at the 40F mark the time I had refrigerated everything, which I think I read is right at the line where you don't want to allow the temps to go any higher for an extended period of time.

As far as other food he may have eaten, I didn't ask but he did take a few pics of the food and sent them - looks like he has a side of bok choy. And I'm guessing rice was the other thing. Not sure if either of those could have been the problem but it really sounds like it was the fish.

Going back to the way he stored it, I personally wouldn't have eaten it if I knew he had kept it like that. Last night, I told my brothers and one of them told me he was thinking about how to eat some of the same fish I gave him that he ended up leaving out in his cooler overnight - I immediately told him to throw all of it away after hearing that. Pretty sure it would have resulted in the same thing. But yea, I am still curious about why he wouldn't have gotten sick from the collar - unless at that point in time the histamine count, assuming the process started, was much lower. I don't know how my friend thawed the belly the *second* time but if he just left it sitting out all day and it was sitting for several hours at 50-60F (which may still feel "cold" to most people), I'm wondering if that would have exacerbated it even more so.

1
Anytime you refreeze fish you're rolling the dice.
Yea those were my thoughts - it sounded a bit iffy to me.
 

MYNomad

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As far as other food he may have eaten, I didn't ask but he did take a few pics of the food and sent them - looks like he has a side of bok choy.
Wait - he sent you pics of what he had eaten? After he ate it? And you studied his barf pics enough to see something that looked like bok choy? Looking at those pics would be enough to give me instant symptoms of food poisoning.
 
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Cast Gold

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Scombroid is from a substance called histamine which is produced by bacteria when the fish is contaminated by it. There are a number of histamine-producing bacteria, like Clostridium, Pseudomonas, and Staph. Staphylococcus lives on human skin and can get on the fish. Either wear gloves or wash hands thoroughly before handling the fish. When you're filleting, always keep the skin side of the lions on the cutting board and the flesh only contacting air. Use paper towels between the fillets and the cutting board and discard them frequently along the process.
 

jplee3

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Wait - he sent you pics of what he had eaten? After he ate it? And you studied his barf pics enough to see something that looked like bok choy? Looking at those pics would be enough to give me instant symptoms of food poisoning.
LOL no he sent pics of what he cooked *before* he ate it presumably. At least, it looks like he had just cooked it all from the pics he took. It actually looks pretty good hahaha!
 

Ali

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It sounds to me like what ever happened was after you gave the fish to your buddy.

Couple points -

> Fish isn't any more fragile than other meats for the most part. Keep it clean and cold and you'll be fine. A week in a cold fridge is fine. After that freeze.

> Given the time, I'll keep ANY fish on ice with or without guts for 2-3 days before cutting it. This allows the meat to relax from the rigor and stabilize. I then take the fillets I'm going eat fresh and put them on a plate wrapped in paper towels for a day or two. Change the towels as they get wet (once or twice a day). This will yield both a sashimi and cooked product that will blow you away. (Try this with a local yellowtail and your mind will be blown)

> Refreezing is fine. It will diminish the quality a little for sure, but not bad at all.

Hope it helps.
 
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nweiner

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A couple things to note is that you cannot keep unfrozen fish (fresh or thawed) in a vacuum bag for any appreciable amount of time. Once you pack it in a vacuum bag it needs to be frozen immediately as oxygen cannot escape the barrier of the vacuum bag and spoilage will occur. Conversely, it is this barrier property of a vacuum bag that helps fight freezer burn. You should remove the fish, or at least open the vacuum bag, when you thaw.

Secondly, the bacteria that causes Scombroid grows more quickly and at lower temperatures than the bacteria that causes spoilage/rotting that you can smell. Often times affected fish will pass the “smell test” but still be unsafe to eat. It is likely what happened in the OPs case.

Finally, if you are going to keep the fish fresh before freezing, you can keep it in a freezer (ziploc) bag in the refrigerator. This type of bag does not have the same barrier properties as a vacuum bag and is safe to use for fresh. Once you are ready to freeze you can transfer to a vacuum bag and then freeze.

Hope this helps.
 

jplee3

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It sounds to me like what ever happened was after you gave the fish to your buddy.

Couple points -

> Fish isn't any more fragile than other meats for the most part. Keep it clean and cold and you'll be fine. A week in a cold fridge is fine. After that freeze.

> Given the time, I'll keep ANY fish on ice with or without guts for 2-3 days before cutting it. This allows the meat to relax from the rigor and stabilize. I then take the fillets I'm going eat fresh and put them on a plate wrapped in paper towels for a day or two. Change the towels as they get wet (once or twice a day). This will yield both a sashimi and cooked product that will blow you away. (Try this with a local yellowtail and your mind will be blown)

> Refreezing is fine. It will diminish the quality a little for sure, but not bad at all.

Hope it helps.
A couple things to note is that you cannot keep unfrozen fish (fresh or thawed) in a vacuum bag for any appreciable amount of time. Once you pack it in a vacuum bag it needs to be frozen immediately as oxygen cannot escape the barrier of the vacuum bag and spoilage will occur. Conversely, it is this barrier property of a vacuum bag that helps fight freezer burn. You should remove the fish, or at least open the vacuum bag, when you thaw.

Secondly, the bacteria that causes Scombroid grows more quickly and at lower temperatures than the bacteria that causes spoilage/rotting that you can smell. Often times affected fish will pass the “smell test” but still be unsafe to eat. It is likely what happened in the OPs case.

Finally, if you are going to keep the fish fresh before freezing, you can keep it in a freezer (ziploc) bag in the refrigerator. This type of bag does not have the same barrier properties as a vacuum bag and is safe to use for fresh. Once you are ready to freeze you can transfer to a vacuum bag and then freeze.

Hope this helps.
Thanks guys!

Great tips and good to know about storing vacuum sealed fish in the fridge vs freezer - after vacuum sealing the fish that I was keeping in the fridge (they were kept in the original bags from the boat that they put the loins/bellies/etc in, but I drained as much blood/liquid as I could and tried to pat down the meat on a regular basis and religiously with paper towels to absorb moisture while this was the case). Once I was ready to process I would vacuum seal whatever given amount I could handle at those points in time, and then transfer them to the freezer soon after doing so (logically, this just makes sense to me anyway).
Also good to know about removing the fish or opening the bag when thawing - would this accelerate the spoilage process or result in the bacteria growing more rapidly btw? I'm 99.9% sure all the fish was still vacuum sealed while it thawed in my friend's cooler the first time. And I'm guessing the second time he thawed it he may have also left it in the vacuum sealed package as well. Based on what you wrote, it sounds like both those instances of thawing with the fish remaining in the vacuum-sealed package likely created an environment for bacteria to flourish.

On that note, was curious but is scrombroid something that can develop even in whole fish that haven't been filleted? Or is this primarily an issue with filleted portions (where the flesh is exposed, etc)
 
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Omarkayak

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All's I know is scombroid poisoning is a tuff gnarl. Think it was the mackerel sushi what did it. Couple hours after eating, sudden onset of horrible chills, red flushed skin, insanely weak--almost couldn't get up off the bed for projectile shitting every four minutes or so--what? gut's not empty yet???! Considered driving to ER but too weak and would have needed towable porta-potty. After a while, suddenly felt considerably better. As the National Lampoon skit of Mr. Rodgers interviewing a bass player went, "So, the story sort of has a happy ending, doesn't it?"

Good fishin'!
BDC OK
 

Cubeye

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All's I know is scombroid poisoning is a tuff gnarl. Think it was the mackerel sushi what did it. Couple hours after eating, sudden onset of horrible chills, red flushed skin, insanely weak--almost couldn't get up off the bed for projectile shitting every four minutes or so--what? gut's not empty yet???! Considered driving to ER but too weak and would have needed towable porta-potty. After a while, suddenly felt considerably better. As the National Lampoon skit of Mr. Rodgers interviewing a bass player went, "So, the story sort of has a happy ending, doesn't it?"

Good fishin'!
BDC OK
Always nice to have some Benadryl antihistamine in the medicine cabinet. I hear Zantac also helps to relieve the symptoms.

I have heard of two cases from people I know. One was from my Mom. Both said that the fish had a metallic taste. My Mom did not eat the fish. Others laughed at her and ate. They got sick.

The other case came from Baja. Apparently the dorado caught during the day spoiled, which is easy to do during those hot summer days in a Panga.
 
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nweiner

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Thanks guys!

Great tips and good to know about storing vacuum sealed fish in the fridge vs freezer - after vacuum sealing the fish that I was keeping in the fridge (they were kept in the original bags from the boat that they put the loins/bellies/etc in, but I drained as much blood/liquid as I could and tried to pat down the meat on a regular basis and religiously with paper towels to absorb moisture while this was the case). Once I was ready to process I would vacuum seal whatever given amount I could handle at those points in time, and then transfer them to the freezer soon after doing so (logically, this just makes sense to me anyway).
Also good to know about removing the fish or opening the bag when thawing - would this accelerate the spoilage process or result in the bacteria growing more rapidly btw? I'm 99.9% sure all the fish was still vacuum sealed while it thawed in my friend's cooler the first time. And I'm guessing the second time he thawed it he may have also left it in the vacuum sealed package as well. Based on what you wrote, it sounds like both those instances of thawing with the fish remaining in the vacuum-sealed package likely created an environment for bacteria to flourish.

On that note, was curious but is scrombroid something that can develop even in whole fish that haven't been filleted? Or is this primarily an issue with filleted portions (where the flesh is exposed, etc)

From what I understand the “safe zone” for markets/restaurants/etc. commercially is to keep fish under 34F and when it gets above 40F fish the considered tainted or spoiled and the cold chain has been broken. At 40F and above bacteria grows exponentially more rapidly and becomes a safety issue for commercial use.

Yes Scombroid can develop in whole fish, but I think that the timeline from catch to ice or fridge is pretty short for most recreational guys. The commercial guys can consider “fresh” up to 30 days or so allowing a lot more mischief to happen with the cold chain. Products like whole fresh swordfish are high risk because of that. I think it was said earlier but freezing does not kill it.

A buddy of mine got Scombroid Poisoning from some bad swordfish at a restaurant and he was miserable for about 24 hours. The doctor prescribed Benadryl (anti-histamine) and he got better almost instantly!
 

1steveT

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Wait - he sent you pics of what he had eaten? After he ate it? And you studied his barf pics enough to see something that looked like bok choy? Looking at those pics would be enough to give me instant symptoms of food poisoning.
Pics or it didn't happen:-)
 

SSUfish

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I've had scrombroid poising before after a killer trip on the Dominator years ago. The fish (yft) we had went into the holds as per standard operating procedure, they came out super cold and I processed them at home (<10minutes away from the landing) right away.

Thankfully I didn't have the squirts like others have but I knew something was wrong immediately. Heart rate went to over 150, red/splotchy/hives all over, eyes blood shot...after 30 minutes of it not going away I went to the hospital.

Their remedy was antihistamines which brought me back down. Later that night I took a bag of fish from another section of the freezer to try (that would have been from a different fish) and thankfully had those antihistamines close by because the symptoms appeared immediately again. I threw the entire batch of fish out and it's because of that experience I ALWAYS try my fish first before giving it out to others.

Better be safe than sorry, throw the batch out and save any health issue as well as the expense on your wallet. Also a good idea to keep some non-expired antihistamines handy in the medicine cabinet.
 

jplee3

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I've had scrombroid poising before after a killer trip on the Dominator years ago. The fish (yft) we had went into the holds as per standard operating procedure, they came out super cold and I processed them at home (<10minutes away from the landing) right away.

Thankfully I didn't have the squirts like others have but I knew something was wrong immediately. Heart rate went to over 150, red/splotchy/hives all over, eyes blood shot...after 30 minutes of it not going away I went to the hospital.

Their remedy was antihistamines which brought me back down. Later that night I took a bag of fish from another section of the freezer to try (that would have been from a different fish) and thankfully had those antihistamines close by because the symptoms appeared immediately again. I threw the entire batch of fish out and it's because of that experience I ALWAYS try my fish first before giving it out to others.

Better be safe than sorry, throw the batch out and save any health issue as well as the expense on your wallet. Also a good idea to keep some non-expired antihistamines handy in the medicine cabinet.

So I had consumed several portions *before* giving the fish to my buddy and experienced no issues at all. Otherwise, I surely wouldn't have given him any haha. That said, I'm still curious about why he wouldn't have encountered this eaten the collar from the same batch I gave him - the only difference is that he ate the collar soon after I gave it to him (probably within a day or two) and so he probably didn't refreeze and thaw a second time.
 

Cubeye

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Scombroid poisoning or histamine poisoning, seems to be prevalent in tuna and mackerel or the Scomber family of fish. Histamine is found in the slime & skin of these species, so when you fillet, you don't want the skin to touch the meat. That's why when fish are commercially filleted, two tables are used. One to do the rough filleting and another to do the trim work. Both tables are constantly cleaned. I use three tables. One to rough fillet. One to skin, and one to trim the dark meat.
 

jplee3

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Scombroid poisoning or histamine poisoning, seems to be prevalent in tuna and mackerel or the Scomber family of fish. Histamine is found in the slime & skin of these species, so when you fillet, you don't want the skin to touch the meat. That's why when fish are commercially filleted, two tables are used. One to do the rough filleting and another to do the trim work. Both tables are constantly cleaned. I use three tables. One to rough fillet. One to skin, and one to trim the dark meat.
Good to know this. Thanks for the info
 
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mike carson

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Good to know this. Thanks for the info
I have a friend who also got scambroid poisening,he got some yellowfin also,but I think the guy he got it from was a rookie to the sport, and didnt keep it cold. He got it bad,chills sweats,heart beating out of his chest,He thought he was going to die, he went to emergency,and once he told them what he ate,they knew instsntly it was scombroid poisening.A an antihistamine was also the medicine that fixed him up. How about those boats that use a 20 year old piece of plywood for a cutting board,nasty
 
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Cubeye

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I have a friend who also got scambroid poisening,he got some yellowfin also,but I think the guy he got it from was a rookie to the sport, and didnt keep it cold. He got it bad,chills sweats,heart beating out of his chest,He thought he was going to die, he went to emergency,and once he told them what he ate,they knew instsntly it was scambroid poisening.A an antihistamine was also the medicine that fixed him up. How about those boats that use a 20 year old piece of plywood for a cutting board,nasty
I use plywood for my rough filleting. No problems. Just constantly keep it clean. My stainless steel table is too slippery for me, so I put the plywood on top. Butcher blocks are made of wood and they don't seem to have any problems.

I use Starboard for the other prep tables.
 

mike carson

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I use plywood for my rough filleting. No problems. Just constantly keep it clean. My stainless steel table is too slippery for me, so I put the plywood on top. Butcher blocks are made of wood and they don't seem to have any problems.

I use Starboard for the other prep tables.
Yea most private boaters have new cutting boards,but many party boats cutting boards look like they were floating in the ocean for a couple years
 
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Kai

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I remember pinheading back in the day. We scrubbed the filet board clean with soap after every trip.
 
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ZZZZZ

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Smell is key. But cross contamination can occur

If a person gets it a few times. Possible chance of creating a rock iron gut :D

First time I got it. Was at San Miguel. My paps took the high school surf team to San Miguel and then out to Todos Santos island. Paps was high school volunteer wrestling coach also. Don't think that's ok now in these times to take a school surfing trip to mex. My bro was in high school and I was in Jr high. Saved a taco for about 36 hours. Reheated on the camp fire.

Burning hot pins and needles and hives. Happened two more times. Now I can eat almost anything LOL