Tongue-eating parasites caught entering Britain by SCPHA

WARNING: This article contains sensitive images that some readers may find disturbing

Parasites that sever and take the place of fish tongues were discovered in an import of seabream at the Port of Felixstowe by Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA).

SCPHA was able to reject the consignment infested with Cymothoa exigua and send 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.

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

Cymothoa exigua parasites cut off and pose as the tongues of imported seabream. Discovered during a health check by SCPHA.

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

Upon opening and examining a sample of cartons from the container, Danut discovered the dead Cymothoa exigua had infested some of the seabream.

Official Veterinary Surgeon Danut Cazacu, who discovered the parasites, in SCPHA’s examination facilities.

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

Richard Jacobs, Port Health Manager, concluded:

“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.”