[Coral-List] Is or isn't Lionfish safe to eat, that's the question

Mcguire,Maia Patterson mpmcg at ufl.edu
Tue May 7 08:28:57 EDT 2013

All the FDA document (and this is only a DRAFT at this point) is doing is advising seafood processors that lionfish should be included with the other fish known to accumulate ciguatoxin (including some species of grouper, snapper, barracuda, etc....). Essentially what that should mean is that local knowledge about the risk of ciguatera poisoning should be extended to lionfish. Growing up in Bermuda, I knew to avoid eating barracuda that were over a certain size, because the larger fish were more likely to be ciguatoxic. Unfortunately, we do not have that anecdotal knowledge yet about lionfish (i.e. if lionfish are harvested from an area known to be high in ciguatoxin, is there a "safe" size of fish to eat or not?)

The FDA addition of lionfish to the list does not mean that all lionfish will cause ciguatera poisoning (we know that's not true, as there have been no reported cases of ciguatera poisoning from lionfish that I am aware of), but simply is a caution, just as currently exists for all those other species on the list. Do people avoid processing, selling or eating grouper because grouper are on the list? In general, the answer is "no," but in localized areas, where ciguatera poisoning is more common than in other areas, the answer might be "yes." By the proposed addition of lionfish to the list, the FDA is simply saying that lionfish should be addressed in the same way as grouper, snapper, etc. from areas known to be high in ciguatoxin occurrence.

I've heard that in the US Virgin Islands, where ciguatoxin occurrence is high, the local commercial fishermen kill and discard lionfish that are caught in their traps, rather than try to sell them as food fish. Unpublished (so far) research from USVI has shown high levels of ciguatoxin in lionfish there...

The FDA proposal should not be blown out of proportion, but more seen as a precautionary warning that lionfish living in areas of high ciguatoxin occurrence CAN accumulate ciguatoxin at levels that could cause human illness, but not that all lionfish everywhere WILL accumulate these levels of ciguatoxin--it will all be location-dependent...


Maia McGuire, PhD
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
150 Sawgrass Road
Bunnell, FL 32110


Educational videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/IFASCDistrict

From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov] on behalf of RainbowWarriorsInternational [southern_caribbean at yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 07, 2013 1:12 AM
To: Caribbean Coral Reefs; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Is or isn't Lionfish safe to eat, that's the question

See: Food Safety: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/03/fda-adds-lionfish-to-list-of-fish-that-may-carry-ciguatoxins/#.UW1Gib8s5ZF
    Food Safety News
    FDA Adds Lionfish to List of Fish That May Carry Ciguatoxins
    Issues ciguatera guidelines for industry
    BY NEWS DESK |  MARCH 26, 2013

When we sent this to the Aruban press we got a big backlash from the Government and the Aruba Marine Park Foundation saying this was all nonsense!!! It so happened there was a huge Lionfish hunt and cookout on April 30 with more than a 1,000 people in Aruba sampling cooked Lionfish including many a tourist.

Is this foolish or what? At heart is the fact that the "science" behind this is being seriously questioned in Aruba.

Any comments on the actual food safety are welcome.

Milton Ponson, President
Rainbow Warriors Core Foundation
(Rainbow Warriors International)
Tel. +297 568 5908
PO Box 1154, Oranjestad
Aruba, Dutch Caribbean
Email: southern_caribbean at yahoo.com

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