Port staff uncover tongue-eating parasites in seabream containment

The SCPHA made the discovery of Cymothoa exigua parasites within the imported seabream.

The SCPHA made the discovery of Cymothoa exigua parasites within the imported seabream. - Credit: SCPHA

Parasites that sever and pose as fish tongues have been uncovered by port staff in a shipment heading into Felixstowe. 

Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority's (SCPHA) veterinary surgeon Danut Cazacu and authorised officer Ashley Kemp made the discovery in a consignment of seabream. 

Veterinary Surgeon Danut Cazacu, who discovered the parasites, in SCPHA's examination facilities

Danut Cazacu and authorised officer Ashley Kemp were among the team to discover the parasites at SCPHA's examination facilities. - Credit: SCPHA

The team's job is to ensure consigments are fit for human consumption and use by upholding high food standards, ship sanitation certification and infectious disease control.

They discovered the parasites known as Cymothoa exigua, in and around the packaging and in some of the seabream.

Mr Cazacu 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.”  

The parasites were extracted from the fish by the SCPHA

The parasites were extracted from the fish by the SCPHA - Credit: SCPHA

The SCPHA team carried out a routine health check after noticing the importer had failed to complete the required paperwork.

Mr Cazacu added: “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. 

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“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.” 

The 130-strong team check more than 80,0000 consignments every year and provide health checks at the Port of Felixstowe – Britain’s busiest container port – Harwich International Port and the Port of Ipswich. 

The Cymothoa exigua parasites cut off and pose as the tongues of imported seabream and was discovered by port staff. 

The Cymothoa exigua parasites cut off and pose as the tongues of imported seabream and was discovered by port staff. - Credit: SCPHA

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.” 

The team at the Port of Felixstowe inspected the macrobrachium rosenbergii during an inspection on May 4. 

The team at the Port of Felixstowe inspected the macrobrachium rosenbergii during an inspection on May 4. - Credit: SCPHA

In May, the team showcased some of the unusual shipments they can deal with during routine checks when they inspected a rather long-limbed visitor. 

On that occasion, the inspector was greeted with a macrobrachium rosenbergii - or giant river prawn, with legs measuring 16 inches.