What is Histamine Fish Poisoning (HFP) ?

HFP (aka Scombroid fish poisoning) is caused by eating fish that has been partly spoiled by the growth of certain kinds of bacteria. As these bacteria break down the muscle tissue of the fish, they produce high levels of chemicals called histamines (Chen et al., 2008). Fishes commonly linked to histamine poisoning include:


  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Bonito
  • Skipjack Tuna
  • Jack
  • Herring
  • Yellow fin Tuna
  • Sardine
  • Black Marlin
  • Pilchard
  • Anchovy
  • mahi-mahi




The symptoms of HFP are similar to a severa allergic reaction, and may include:

  • A burning/tingling sensation in/around the mouth
  • Rash/swelling over chest and neck
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Itchy skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
Most symptoms will stop after a few hours.

What Happens ?

Histamine production relies on temperature. At ambient temperature, histamine can rise up to 400 mg/100g (Guizani et al.,2005; Tao et al., 2009). Most enteric bacteria are capable of transforming histidine to histamine by enzyme decarboxylase (Da Silva et al., 2002). Once histamine is formed, it is not destroyed by freezing, cooking, smoking, curing or canning. Histamine level of > 5mg/100g is classified as unsafe by FDA.

HFF Prevention

  • Rapid chilling of fish immediately after death is the most important element in any strategy for preventing the formation of histamine.
  • Further chilling towards the freezing point is also desirable to safe-guard against longer-term, low-temperature development of histamine. Additionally, the shelf-life of the fish is significantly compromised when product temperature is not rapidly dropped to near freezing.
  • Once chilled, the fish should be maintained as close as possible to the freezing point (or held frozen) until it is consumed. Exposure to ambient temperature should be minimized.

Detection Method


Tuna Bangkok 2008



Tuna Bangkok 2010

Our Histamine Lab

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