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Histamine in anchovies

In 2009 a case of scombroid poisoning occurred due to high levels of histamine in anchovies.

In response, the NSW Food Authority conducted a survey on histamine levels in anchovies in oil and dried anchovies. Between May 2009 and August 2009, 45 samples of anchovies in oil and 34 samples of dried anchovies were purchased from retail outlets across Sydney and tested for histamine. Standard 2.2.3 in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code states that the level of histamine in fish and fish products must not exceed 200 mg/kg.

Results

Key findings of the survey were:

  • 97.8% of anchovies in oil contained less than 200 mg/kg of histamine and were therefore compliant with the Code.
  • 97.1% of dried anchovies contained less than 200 mg/kg of histamine and were therefore compliant with the Code.

Appropriate enforcement action was taken on samples with levels greater than 200 mg/kg.

The average level of histamine in anchovies in oil was 33 mg/kg and ranged from not detected to 518 mg/kg. The average level of histamine in dried anchovies was 35 mg/kg and ranged from not detected to 483 mg/kg. Result highlights the importance of correct storage.

Full results are available in the report below:

Presence of histamine in anchovies, July 2010 (pdf 546KB, 18pp)

Table of contents  
Introduction
Histamine
Scombroid poisoning
Survey objective
Materials and methods
Results and discussion
Conclusion
References
Appendix 1: Survey raw data