FDA Issues Warning About Tuna Fish as Officials Probe Illness Outbreak

November 18, 2019 Updated: November 18, 2019

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it’s investigating a series of incidents of fish poisoning and has placed a Vietnamese company linked to the outbreak under close watch as the company has so far refused to issue a recall for its products.

Some 47 people became ill from scombrotoxin fish poisoning between Aug. 8 and Oct. 15 across 10 states, the federal agency said.

Truong Phu Xanh Co., of Vietnam, was placed on Import Alert, which “provides information to FDA field staff that they may detain the firm’s yellowfin tuna without physical examination,” the FDA said in an alert.

“Detained product will not enter the United States unless the importer proves that it meets U.S. food safety standards.”

The company was told to voluntarily recall all of its imported yellowfin tuna with production dates from January 2019 to the present.

“At this time, the firm has not recalled any product,” the agency stated.

“Scombrotoxin fish poisoning occurs when fish begin to spoil, resulting in increased histamine levels. Therefore, product samples cannot be linked to case patient samples through Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) or Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis like for other foodborne illnesses, e.g., Salmonella or Listeria,” the FDA said.

“Instead, samples are tested for decomposition and/or histamine levels. Multiple samples have been collected and analyzed, with positive results for decomposition or high histamine levels in products imported from Truong Phu Xanh Co., LTD.”

Yellowfin tuna in a file picture. (Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP via Getty Images)

The Vietnamese exporter was identified as the common supplier of tuna that was believed to be consumed by those who fell ill.

Therefore, the agency warned people that yellowfin tuna from the company that’s been produced this year shouldn’t be consumed. Importers, suppliers, and distributors shouldn’t use any yellowfin tuna imported from Truong Phu Xanh Co.

To ensure they aren’t eating potentially tainted tuna, consumers poised to buy yellowfin tuna should ask if was imported from the supplier.

Tuna from the company could have been sold thawed or frozen, and could have been sold as ground tuna meat, poke cubes, steaks, or loins. This product could still be within its shelf life.­­

People have fallen ill in Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Symptoms of scombrotoxin fish poisoning typically develop within a few minutes to an hour after eating mishandled and decomposed fish.

“They usually resemble an allergic reaction and can include flushing of the face, headache, heart palpitations, itching, blurred vision, cramps, and diarrhea. Symptoms can be treated with antihistamines, but even without treatment, people usually get better within 12 hours,” the FDA stated.

“People should consult their healthcare provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble scombrotoxin fish poisoning. Consumers can also submit a voluntarily report, a complaint, or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction) related to a food product.”

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