Research report

​Review of the risk management practices employed throughout the fish processing chain in relation to controlling histamine formation in at-risk fish species in Scotland

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Summary

Grimsby Institute, Humber Seafood Institute
Derrick, S

The aim of this project was to provide a comprehensive review of current risk management practices for controlling histamine in at-risk fish species throughout the Scottish fish processing chain. The review has identified key risk areas in the whole chain (from-catch-to-fork) and any gaps in the management of these.

The fish species normally associated with histamine fish poisoning (scombroid poisoning) are Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic herring, horse mackerel and sardines. These are some of the most commonly caught fish in Scottish waters.

The Food Standards Agency in Scotland asked researchers at the Grimsby Institute to identify the key risk areas in the fish processing chain where histamine may form.
The study found that high histamine levels were only occasionally detected in fish. These fish were usually identified before reaching the retailer/consumer and usually contained levels far below the legal maximal limits. These cases were usually associated with mackerel.

The key control to histamine formation is temperature. The most important control to prevent histamine formation and accumulation is rapid chilling of harvested fish and maintenance of low temperatures (<2°C) until the fish is eaten.

The conclusion from this project is that there are potential inherent risks of histamine fish poisoning from eating fish species, such as mackerel and herring. However, by applying appropriate food safety risk management systems, as required by the relevant hygiene regulations, including maintenance of the cold chain and basic good hygiene practices, food businesses can adequately control these risks.

Project Code: FS241055

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