Photo: Fugu or blowfish is a popular but potentially poisonous Japanese dish (Creative Commons: Scott Edmunds).
Why is the Fugu so Poisonous?
The fish contains high tetrodotoxin – a lethal poison. The toxin is over 1000 more poisonous than cyanide. The poison tends to concentrate in the fish’s liver, eyes, and ovaries. Tetrodotoxin can paralyze a person. In this state of paralysis, the person cannot breathe and can die from asphyxiation. There is no antidote for this poison.
The poison is actually produced by certain types of bacteria within the fish. When consuming certain foods, the bacteria and toxins are introduced into the fish.
How is Fugu served?
In Japan, fugu can only be prepared and served by licensed chefs. As a result, it is a very expensive dish in Japan where live fish are prepared. The fish is usually served as sashimi or raw fish. It may also be served fried, stewed, or in a salad. The flesh or eggs are popular dishes.
When served improperly, the death of the customer has occurred. Several deaths from fugu poisoning occurs each year.
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