IFN 21-16 – Histamine susceptible fish

Issued: 21 December 2016

Who does this affect

This notice is for brokers and importers importing fish to advise of changes to the inspection and analysis of fish and fish products for histamine. These changes are described on the  Tests applied to risk food webpage.

These changes are being made in response to the reclassification of more species of fish and fish products as risk food. This reclassification has resulted from amendments to the Imported Food Control Order 2001 that will commence on 4 January 2017. This reclassification was based on advice from Food Standards Australia New Zealand that these additional fish and fish products have the potential to pose a medium or high risk to public health for the toxin histamine. This risk statement advice is available here and includes background information about histamine.

What has changed?

From 4 January 2017, the following fish and fish products will be classified as risk food for histamine:

  • fish of the family Scombridae (for example, tuna, mackerel and bonito);
  • fish of the family Coryphaenidae (for example, mahi-mahi);
  • fish of the family Pomatomidae (for example, bluefish);
  • fish of the family Carangidae (for example, trevallies, jacks and pompanos);
  • fish of the family Clupeidae (for example, herrings, sardines);
  • fish of the family Engraulidae (for example, anchovy);
  • fish of the family Scomberesocidae (for example, king gars and saury);
  • fish products containing more than 300 g/kg of all or any of the fish named above.

These fish and fish products will be inspected and analysed as a risk food for histamine from 4 January 2017.

To enable the department to inspect and analyse these foods, the existing Community Protection (CP) question about tuna and mackerel will be replaced with the following new CP question and applied to goods lodged under relevant seafood tariff codes:

‘ARE THE GOODS, OR DO THE GOODS CONTAIN MORE THAN 300 G/KG (30%) OF, FISH OF THE FAMILY SCOMBRIDAE, CORYPHAENIDAE, POMATOMIDAE, CARANGIDAE, CLUPEIDAE, ENGRAULIDAE OR SCOMBERESOCIDAE?’ SEARCH 'HISTAMINE SUSCEPTIBLE FISH' AT WWW.AGRICULTURE.GOV.AU FOR MORE INFORMATION.

To be ready for the changes, importers and brokers will need to identify the genus and species of the fish they import and identify the genus and species of fish in the fish products they import.

Using this information, importers and brokers will then need to determine if the fish are in the families listed in the CP question. The Australian fish names standard AS SSA 5300 may be used as a reference. The Fisheries Research & Development Corporation’s ‘fish names database’ assists with searching the standard by scientific and common names. This database informs inquirers of the species, genus and family in which a fish is classified.

In the case of fish products, importers and brokers will also need to identify if these products contain more than 300 g/kg (30%) of any or all of the fish in the families listed in the CP question. Importers and brokers will need to:

  • identify if any of the ingredients in the fish product are fish in the families listed in the CP question; and
  • determine the proportion (in grams per kilogram or percentage) of each ingredient that is in the families of fish listed in the CP question; and
  • determine the total proportion (in grams per kilogram or percentage) of all the ingredients that are fish in the families listed in the CP question.

This total proportion of all the ingredients in the fish product should be used to answer the CP question.

As tuna, tuna products and mackerel are already classified as risk foods for histamine there will be no change to the inspection and analysis of tuna, tuna products and mackerel.

There will also be no change to the inspection and analysis of fish and fish products covered by foreign government certification.

In addition, there will be no change to the inspection and analysis of fish and fish products from New Zealand.

For other risk classified fish and fish products, the food will be inspected, sampled, held and analysed for histamine. The food will not be released if it is found to contain more than 200 mg/kg of histamine.

Perishable foods may be eligible for release before the results for histamine are known. Brokers and importers should ensure that the department is informed of this when entries are lodged.

Histamine in fish and fish products can have serious consequences for consumers. Importers should therefore ensure that fish and fish products they import comply with the 200 mg/kg limit for histamine in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.