Histamine (Scombroid) Fish Poisoning: a Comprehensive Review

Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2016 Feb;50(1):64-9. doi: 10.1007/s12016-015-8467-x.


Histamine fish poisoning, also known as scombroid poisoning, is the most common cause of ichythyotoxicosis worldwide and results from the ingestion of histamine-contaminated fish in the Scombroidae and Scomberesocidae families, including mackerel, bonito, albacore, and skipjack. This disease was first described in 1799 in Britain and re-emerged in the medical literature in the 1950s when outbreaks were reported in Japan. The symptoms associated with histamine fish poisoning are similar to that of an allergic reaction. In fact, such histamine-induced reactions are often misdiagnosed as IgE-mediated fish allergy. Indeed, histamine fish poisoning is still an underrecognized disease. In this review, we discuss the epidemiology, pathophysiology, evaluation, and treatment of scombroid disease. Because more than 80% of fish consumed in the USA is now imported from other countries, the disease is intimately linked with the global fish trade (National Marine Fisheries Service, 2012). Preventing future scombroid outbreaks will require that fishermen, public health officials, restaurant workers, and medical professionals work together to devise international safety standards and increase awareness of the disease. The implications of scombroid poisoning go far beyond that of fish and have broader implications for the important issues of food safety.

Keywords: Fish; Food safety; Histamine poisoning; Scombroid poisoning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fish Products / adverse effects*
  • Food Safety
  • Foodborne Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / prevention & control
  • Foodborne Diseases / therapy*
  • Health Policy
  • Histamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Marine Toxins / poisoning*


  • Histamine Antagonists
  • Marine Toxins
  • scombrotoxin