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FDA Announces Draft Guidance for Primary Seafood Processors Who Purchase Reef Fish and Identifies Lionfish as a Potential Risk for Ciguatera Fish Poisoning

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Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition - Food and Drug Administration

March 26, 2013

FDA is announcing the availability of draft guidance recommending that primary seafood processors who purchase reef fish such as grouper, amberjack, snapper, lionfish, king mackerel, and barracuda take steps to minimize consumers' risk of ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) from the fish they distribute. The draft guidance complements FDA's existing advice on preventing CFP, which is contained in the Fourth Edition of the Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance (2011) (Guide), by identifying two species of lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) as additional reef fish associated with the risk of CFP.

CFP is caused by consuming fish that have eaten toxic marine algae or that have eaten other fish containing the toxins. The toxins accumulate in the flesh of reef dwelling fish, with higher CFP levels predominately found in predatory species, which are then harvested either commercially or by recreational fishermen. Consumers who eat fish that contain ciguatoxin are at risk for contracting CFP.

Primary seafood processors can minimize the risk of CFP by not purchasing fish that are likely to carry ciguatoxins. The Guide recommends that primary seafood processors who purchase fish directly from fishermen obtain information about harvest locations to determine the potential for ciguatoxic fish based on knowledge of the regions where ciguatera occurs. The draft guidance states that primary seafood processors should avoid purchasing fish species associated with causing CFP from established or emerging areas linked with CFP.

After the guidance is finalized, future updates of the Guide will include the two species of lionfish as reef fish for which measures to prevent CFP should be in place.

All interested parties are invited to comment on the draft guidance.

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