Monk fish warning poses possible health risk

HONOLULU – The Department of Health is advising consumers to avoid monk fish.

The warning comes after officials deemed there was a possible health risk on related to a shipment of the monk fish that is under the investigation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Consumers who have purchased monk fish are urged to return it to the place of purchase or discard it. Care should be used in handling the fish as a toxin could be present on the skin and flesh of the fish.

The DOH was notified by the FDA that the fish contains a potent toxin, tetrodotoxin. The monk fish is not known to produce the toxin, as it is usually found in types of pufferfish. However, two people in Chicago fell ill after consuming food made with monk fish. Consuming foods containing tetrodotoxin can result in life-threatening illness or death. Cooking or freezing the fish does not remove the toxin.

Initial symptoms can occur within 30 minutes to several hours after consuming food containing the toxin and characterized by lip and tongue tingling and then followed by facial and extremity tingling and numbness. Subsequent symptoms can include headache, balance problems, excessive salivation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea with abdominal pain. In severe cases, muscles can be paralyzed and death might follow from respiratory muscle paralysis. Consumers experiencing these symptoms should seek medical care.

At this time, no illnesses related to eating monk fish have been reported to the Hawai‘i DOH.

The primary distributor, Hong Chang Corporation, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is currently recalling product labeled as monk fish. At this time, Hong Chang Corp, and FDA are investigating how the problem occurred.

Approximately 64 cases of the product were shipped to Hawai‘i with the majority being retained by the local distributor. The remaining cases are being recalled from various restaurants and markets.

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