RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA. Health officials in North Carolina have noticed a substantial increase in the number of histamine poisonings reported in the state. A total of 22 cases were reported during the period July 1998 to February 1999. This compares to an average two cases per year during the period 1994 to 1997. The symptoms of histamine poisoning include tingling and burning sensations around the mouth, headache, facial flushing and sweating, rash and itching on the upper body, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and heart palpitations. The symptoms appear minutes to a few hours after ingestion of contaminated food and are often severe enough for the patient to seek emergency care. They can sometimes be similar to those observed in coronary heart disease thus increasing the possibility of misdiagnosis and invasive medical intervention. The most common source of histamine poisoning is fish, tuna especially, that has been improperly refrigerated.
Of the 22 cases in North Carolina 18 (82 per cent) involved tuna burgers served
in restaurants and two involved the consumption of tuna salads. Health
officials determined that in 19 cases the tuna used to prepare the burgers and
salads was frozen and thawed more than once before serving. Restaurant
inspections also found inadequate refrigeration in two of the five restaurants
accounting for 64 per cent of the cases. Be careful where you eat your tuna