Histamine in Food

  • S. A. Slorach
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 97)


The ingestion of certain foods containing high levels of histamine can produce intoxication in man. Cases of poisoning, with symptoms similar to those of histamine intoxication, following the ingestion of spoiled fish (bonito) were reported from Scotland as early as 1830 (Henderson 1830). However, it was not until the middle of the present century that histamine food poisoning was clearly recognized and systematic recording of outbreaks began. In countries where such records are kept (e.g. Japan, United Kingdom, United States), histamine food poisoning is one of the commonest forms of food intoxication reported. Outbreaks occur in many countries in different parts of the world, especially those where large amounts of certain types of fish (e.g. tuna, bonito, mackerel and mahi-mahi) are consumed. In the vast majority of reported incidents the incriminated foods have been fish or fish products. Because many outbreaks have been caused by fish of the Scombridae and Scomberesocidae families (so-called scombroid fish), e.g. tuna and mackerel, this type of food poisoning has frequently been called “scombroid” poisoning. However, the same type of intoxication can be caused by the ingestion of fish of other families, e.g. Coryphaenidae (mahi-mahi) and Clupeidae (herring, sardines), or even of other foods, e.g. cheese, containing high levels of histamine. Thus, as suggested by Taylor (1985), it is preferable to use the term “histamine poisoning” instead of “scombroid poisoning”.


Fish Product Histamine Level Histamine Content Histidine Decarboxylase Skipjack Tuna 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1991

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  • S. A. Slorach

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