Shellfish and scombroid fish

It's important to pay attention to how your fish is stored and – in the case of shellfish – where it was collected.

Risks of eating some shellfish

Shellfish can thrive in contaminated water but, as they grow, they store the pollutants inside their bodies. People that eat them are exposed to that contamination, which might include:

  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • other harmful microorganisms
  • biotoxins.

Shellfish and fish should only be collected from areas where water is not contaminated. MPI issues public warnings if areas become contaminated with biotoxins.

Scombroid poisoning from fish

When not chilled adequately, the following fish can produce histamine that can be toxic to humans:

  • kahawai
  • mackerel
  • tuna
  • kingfish
  • marlin
  • bonito
  • sardines
  • pilchards
  • anchovies
  • herring.

The most common symptoms of scombroid poisoning are tingling and burning around the mouth, facial flushing and diarrhoea. Other symptoms may include a skin rash, nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headaches and possibly respiratory distress.

Symptoms can last for up to 12 hours but there are no long-term effects.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about food safety, email

Last reviewed: