Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is advising people to seek medical advice from their GP if they have severe or persistent allergic reactions from eating fish.

ARPHS has had reports of people who have eaten fish from a ready meal service becoming ill with histamine poisoning, also known as scombroid poisoning.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Jay Harrower says the symptoms are often a combination of an allergic reaction and gastroenteritis.

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 may last up to 48 hours, but don’t usually result in any long term effects. The illness typically begins within 30 minutes to an hour or two of consuming the fish.

“There are some fish varieties which are more likely to produce histamines at levels that are toxic, often when the fish is not kept chilled,” Dr Harrower says.

Fish should be properly iced, refrigerated at temperatures or immediately frozen.

The fish commonly associated with high levels of histamines are -

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


There is more information on the Ministry of Primary Industries Food Safety website on scombroid poisoning.

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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