Is it safe to eat seafood after a tsunami?

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Q: I have heard that it is dangerous to eat fish that have eaten humans. Is this true? Is it OK to eat the seafood in the areas where the tsunami struck? And if not, how long will it be before the seafood is safe again?

- Mexico City, Mexico

A: Concern has been expressed in tsunami-affected areas about the potential increased health risks of eating fish/seafood in relation to (a) fish having eaten human cadavers (b) ciguatera and (c) heavy metal contamination.

(a) There is no increased risk related to the consumption of fish that could have been in contact with or eaten from human cadavers. But care should be taken, as always, in how seafood is handled after it is caught before it is consumed. Specifically, dead fish that has remained at ambient temperature for many hours should not be eaten.

(b) There is no increased risk for ciguatera specifically related to the tsunami and there is no epidemiological evidence of increase of ciguatera poisoning cases in the region.

Ciguatera is a problem that occurs in certain specific areas, often related to specific fish living in or near reefs - the ciguatera toxin is produced by an algal species (Gambierdiscus toxicus).

(c) There is no increased risk for heavy metal contamination of fish following the tsunami.

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