Shipment company

SCPHA finds tongue-eating parasite in shipment from Felixstowe

Published:
3:00 p.m. June 21, 2022



Updated:
3:41 PM June 21, 2022

Parasites that cut and appear like fish tongues were discovered by port staff in a shipment heading to Felixstowe.

Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA) Veterinary Surgeon Danut Cazacu and Authorized Officer Ashley Kemp made the discovery in a shipment of sea bream.


Danut Cazacu and authorized officer Ashley Kemp were part of the team to discover the parasites in the SCPHA examination facilities.
– Credit: SCPHA

The team’s job is to ensure that shipments are safe for human consumption and use by adhering to 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 sea bream.

Mr Cazacu said: “Cases like these are a clear reminder of why we work hard to investigate imports and ensure they are safe for human consumption.

“A lot of goods pass our health checks without presenting any risks, but sometimes we receive unacceptable shipments and have to be ready for anything.”


Parasites were extracted from fish by SCPHA

Parasites were extracted from fish by SCPHA
– Credit: SCPHA

The SCPHA team carried out a routine health check after noticing that the importer had not completed the required documents.

Mr Cazacu added: “Investigations are carried out at our discretion, so when we detect something wrong, we can have a larger part of the shipment unloaded for further examination.

“After checking several boxes it was evident that most of the sea bream were infested so we refused the consignment entry into the UK. From there, the importer can choose to have it destroyed or return it to them, and in this case, they have chosen the latter.

The 130-person team check over 80,000 shipments each year and carry out 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 and posed as the tongues of imported sea bream and were discovered by port personnel.

The Cymothoa exigua parasites cut and posed as the tongues of imported sea bream and were discovered by port personnel.
– Credit: SCPHA

Richard Jacobs, Port Health Manager, concluded: “Bravo to Danut, Ashley and the other members of our team involved in scouting and managing this import.

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


The Port of Felixstowe team inspected Macrobrachium rosenbergii during an inspection on May 4.

The Port of Felixstowe team inspected 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 street checks when they inspected a visitor with rather long limbs.

On this occasion, the inspector was greeted with a macrobrachium rosenbergii – or giant river shrimp, with legs measuring 16 inches.