Health authorities are launching an investigation into food poisoning case in which 19 people fell ill after eating coral reef fish at a Lamma Island eatery on Saturday.
Fourteen men and five women, aged 23 to 71, had eaten fish at the seafood restaurant, and had fallen ill with symptoms of the potentially lethal ciguatera poisoning three to 19 hours later, the Centre for Health Protection said.
The restaurant in question was the Wai Kee Sea Food Restaurant in Sok Kwu Wan.
Symptoms can include numbness of the mouth and limbs, heart palpitations fatigue, vomiting, diarrhoea and flushes. Excessive consumption can also affect the circulatory and nervous systems.
Six of the diners had sought medical help and at least one person was admitted to hospital. All are in now in stable condition, the CHP said.
Wai Kee restaurant keeper surnamed Wong told the Post that it was “pure bad luck” that the fish had carried ciguatoxin and there was no real way of tracing the roots of the toxin, nor was there any quick way to test for it.
He said the problem was not with his restaurant, but with the supplier, which sourced the fish near the Taiwan-governed Pratas (or Dongsha) Islands 340km from Hong Kong
“Fortunately, the people affected this time are old customers of mine and I’ve been in contact with them to see how they are doing. It was just some slight illness,” said Wong. He said he had been co-operating with officials from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and was awaiting their response.
Ciguatoxins come from toxic micro-organisms which live on dead coral and algae that large predatory coral reef fish feed on. Although fish are not affected by the poison, ciguatoxins accumulate on their head, skin, offal and roe.
Due to the toxin’s high stability, cooking, drying or refrigerating the fish cannot kill the poison.