Food Chemistry

The Food Section provides testing services to the Food and Drug Branch, Sanitation Branch, and the Disease Outbreak and Control Division of the Department of Health.

We use standardized methodologies in the examination of local and imported foods for contaminants and additives. We also test for histamine in fish in potential cases of scombroid food poisoning.

The State Laboratories Division (SLD) would like to offer some guidance about submitting samples for histamine testing. We believe that requests should be sent after a medical review of the case. A physician should, for example, be aware of the differences in symptoms between histamine/scombroid poisoning and ciguatera poisoning. It may also be possible to draw inferences from the type of fish which is available to be sent (and which the ill patient ate). Histamine poisoning is often associated with Scombroidea fish such as tuna or mackerel, as opposed to the reef-feeding fish (especially large ones) which are more likely to have the ciguatera dinoflagellate toxin.

Please be aware that when fish samples are sent to SLD for toxin testing, we do histamine testing only. Also be aware that the sample sent may be consumed by the testing process. So if a fish sample is sent here for histamine testing, it may not be possible to follow up with testing for ciguatera toxin. This is why screening of the test requests by a physician for compatible symptoms, and consideration of the type of fish suspected to be involved are important.

Guidelines For Submission Of Samples For Histamine Analysis