Emergency alert in Japan as officials hunt for deadly fugu fish sold in error by supermarket
Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 17 January 2018| 29 Rabi ul Aakhir 1439
A Japanese city has activated an emergency warning system to alert residents to avoid eating locally purchased blowfish, after a mix-up saw toxic parts of the delicacy go on sale.
A supermarket in Gamagori in central Japan sold five packages of fugu fish without removing the livers, which can contain a deadly poison.
Three of the potentially lethal specimens have been located, but the other two remain at large, local official Koji Takayanagi told AFP.
“We are calling for residents to avoid eating fugu, using Gamagori city’s emergency wireless system,” which broadcasts over loudspeakers located around the city recalling the products.
“Three packages will be retrieved today, but we still don’t know where the remaining two are.”
Fugu is one of Japan’s most expensive winter delicacies, and is often served in thin slices of sashimi or hot pot.
Opinion is mixed about the taste; some say it’s a bit like chicken, but it does have a delicate, gelatinous texture.
But the fish’s skins, intestines, ovaries and livers contain a poison called tetrodotoxin that can be fatal.
The part of the fish that contains the deadly poison differs from one kind of fugu to another.
The fish, also referred to as puffer fish, contains a toxin hundreds of times more poisonous than cyanide; its liver alone can contain enough poison to kill five men. Japan has laws in place to ensure it is prepared and detoxified properly before it is sold.
Japanese chefs are required to obtain a special permit to prepare the fish, but several people in Japan are killed each year by incorrectly prepared fugu, with dozens more suffering non-fatal side effects, according to the health ministry.
To prepare such a high-risk food, chefs must undergo a three-year apprenticeship before being allowed to take the examination, in theory ensuring precise execution and making it safe to eat.
One fish can kill thirty people. About five people a year make puffer fish their last meal, and many more get violently sick from it.
According to the Japanese Health Ministry, incorrectly prepared fugu has been found to be one of the most frequent causes of food poisoning in the country.
“Eating a blowfish liver can paralyse motor nerves, and in a serious case cause respiratory arrest leading to death,” regional officials said in a warning statement.