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Cymothoa exigua parasites that take place of fish tongues discovered in seabream shipment at Port of Felixstowe



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Parasites that cut off and pose as fish tongues have been discovered in a shipment of seabream by Suffolk port officials.

Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA), which checks food and animal-related imports, rejected the consignment infested with Cymothoa exigua which arrived at the Port of Felixstowe and sent it back to its country of origin.

Danut Cazacu, an official veterinary surgeon at SCPHA, who discovered the health hazard along with authorised officer Ashley Kemp, said: "Cases such as these are clear reminders of why we work hard to investigate imports and ensure they’re safe for human consumption.

Cymothoa exigua parasites cut off and pose as the tongues of imported seabream. Picture: SCPHA
Cymothoa exigua parasites cut off and pose as the tongues of imported seabream. Picture: SCPHA

“Many goods pass our health checks without presenting risks, but we sometimes receive unacceptable consignments and must be ready for anything.”

The health authority first noticed something wrong with the consignment, which was intended for human consumption and comprised one container, when its importer failed to complete the required paperwork.

Official veterinary surgeon Danut Cazacu, who discovered the parasites, in SCPHA's examination facilities. Picture: SCPHA
Official veterinary surgeon Danut Cazacu, who discovered the parasites, in SCPHA's examination facilities. Picture: SCPHA

Ashley then found parasites in and around the packaging as part of a routine health check.

While examining a sample of cartons from the container, Danut found the dead Cymothoa exigua had infested some of the seabream.

He said: “Investigations are carried out at our discretion, so when we detect something is wrong, we can have more of the consignment unloaded for further examination.

“After checking more cartons, it was apparent that most of the seabream were infested, so we denied the consignment’s entry into the UK.

Parasites extracted from the fish by SCPHA. Picture: SCPHA
Parasites extracted from the fish by SCPHA. Picture: SCPHA

"From there the importer can choose to have it destroyed or sent back to them, and in this case they chose the latter.”

Part of East Suffolk Council, SCPHA and its more than 130 team members check over 80,000 consignments every year to ensure imports are fit for human consumption and use by upholding high food standards, ship sanitation certification and infectious disease control.

Team members provide health checks at the Port of Felixstowe – Britain’s busiest container port – Harwich International Port and the Port of Ipswich.

Richard Jacobs, port health manager, said: “Well done to Danut, Ashley and our other team members involved in spotting and handling this import.

“It’s not every day that we find imports infested with parasites, but we are always prepared and ready to take action.”

The team also recently discovered a Giant River Prawn at the Port of Felixstowe with limbs extending to 16ins during a routine health check.

A Giant River Prawn found during a routine health check of an import by SCPHA. Picture: SCPHA
A Giant River Prawn found during a routine health check of an import by SCPHA. Picture: SCPHA

Richard added: “The Giant River Prawn passed our health checks with flying colours, so you never know what you’ll find.”