Japanese Puffer Fish aka Fugu – Delicious Delicacy Or Daredevil Dining?
Fugu, Japanese pufferfish, is notorious for the highly toxic poison—tetrodotoxin—contained in its organs. Despite its deadly potential, fugu has been eaten in Japan for hundreds of years. As it was initially unknown how to properly prepare the fish, there were many fatalities from fugu consumption. For this reason, the eating of fugu was banned from around 1570 to 1870. These days fugu is commonly available in restaurants and supermarkets throughout Japan, but must be prepared by a licensed chef, and is prohibited to be prepared in the home—-even today, the Japanese royal family is forbidden from eating it.
Shimonoseki, located in the southwestern region of Japan’s Honshu island, is regarded as the “fugu capital”, although it’s eaten all over the country, albeit by different names. For example, in Kyushu, it is called “fuku”, in Nagasaki, it’s “ganba” and in Osaka, it’s “teppo”—teppo means gun in Japanese, a reference to the deadly nature of fugu.
Thrill-seeking is not the only reason that Japanese pufferfish remains so popular – aside from its distinct, subtle flavor and unique chewy texture, fugu is also low in fat and high in protein. Both fugu skin and meat are used in Japanese cuisine, and the meat is very versatile. Fugu was originally a high-class food, but has become more widely available in recent years–although still as a premium-priced fish.
The blow fish is known for its striking ability to poof-up like a big spiky hot-air balloon during a crisis. But, it isn’t filling itself up with hot air at all! What causes that lean little fish to become its bulbous alter ego? Tetrodotoxin, that’s what.
What Is Tetrodotoxin
Tetrodotoxin (TTX), is one of the most powerful neurotoxins found anywhere in the world. When put to use by the pufferfish, the substance is employed to keep predators away while it is alive, and apparently to exact revenge upon humans who dine at the fugu sushi table following its demise. In its fugu sushi state, the blow fish can have enough of the neurotoxin left in its little (improperly) filleted body to kill more than 30 full-sized people, including you.
The tetrodotoxin (poison) found in pufferfish is measured at being 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide. Making an exposure equal to the size of a pinhead enough to kill you.
Tiger Puffer (Takifugu rubripes)
This little fish is considered to be the most toxic of the twenty-five species of fugu. The toxin it harbors tetrodotoxin (or tetrodoxin) is named for Tetraodontiformes, the order of fish that includes fugu.
1. Who Is at the Most Risk of Dying From Puffer Fish Poisoning?
People who think the thrill of eating sushi should equal the rush found in engaging in unarmed hand-to-hand combat with a pride of African lions. Oh, and the sushi chefs who are mandated to taste it before serving it.
2. Medical Cause of Death From Puffer Fish Poisoning
Respiratory paralysis, asphyxiation.
3. How Lethal Is the Poison in Fugu?
Very high! More than 60% of all fugu poisonings will end in death. After the toxin has been consumed, you have less than sixty minutes to get respiratory treatment which is your only hope in surviving the effects of this powerful poison.
4. How Long Does It Take for Puffer Fish Poison to Kill You?
Anywhere from twenty minutes to twenty-four hours.
5. How Many People Die From Puffer Fish Sushi Yearly?
More than 100 people die annually from puffer fish poisoning. Almost all resulting from consuming the world’s most deadly delicacy. Throughout history, thousands have met their demise from fugu poisoning, primarily in Japan and China where it is more readily found in sushi restaurants.
Are you ready for some Fugu?