Trevor’s Travel Trivia – Part V


World’s Most Dangerous Food


(1) Fugu

Also known as the puffer fish, fugu is a Japanese delicacy that if not prepared correctly can kill you or cause asphyxia. The fish, normally eaten raw, can only be served by highly trained chefs with years of experience in preparing fugu. This is because its internal organs contain the lethal poison tetrodotoxin. This substance is 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide. Chefs leave a tiny amount inside the fish, which provides for a slight tingling sensation. Some consider the liver the tastiest part, but it is also the most poisonous, and serving this organ in restaurants was banned in Japan in 1984. In November 2011 a chef at two-Michelin star “Fugu Fukuji” in Tokyo was suspended from his post. The chef served fugu liver to a customer who, despite being warned of the risks, specifically asked that it be provided. The 35-year-old customer subsequently required hospital treatment for mild symptoms of tetrodotoxin paralysis, but made a full recovery. When consumed, the toxin does not enter the “blood-brain barrier” so a person can remain completely unaware that his/her central nervous system is slowly closing down, before experiencing paralysis. But this hasn’t stopped the Japanese, who continue to consume 10,000 tons of the fish every year. On average about one to two people die each year.

Dangerous Food - Fugu Alive     Dangerous Food - Fugu Sashimi

Simpson Blowfish cut      Simpson Blowfish

(2) Leafy greens

This includes spinach, lettuce, cabbage, arugula and kale. The U.S. FDA identified several hundred outbreaks per year linked to the veggies and classified them as high-risk. The majority of contaminations were linked to a pathogen called Nirovirus, which is usually spread by the unwashed hands of an ill food handler or consumer.

Dangerous Food - Kale alive     Dangerous Food - Steamed Kale

(3) Castor oil

It comes from the seeds of the castor oil plant, which are loaded with the poison ricin, a toxic protein. Heating during the oil extraction process denatures and deactivates the protein. Only buy from trusted sources.

Dangerous Food - Castor Bean Plant     Dangerous Food - Castor Oil

(4) Silver-cheeked toadfish (silver stripe blaasop)

This rare fish is a delicacy in parts of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Its liver, skin, and organs are extremely toxic and can cause fatal paralysis.

Dangerous Food - Silver Stripe Blaasop alive     Dangerous Food - Preparation of silver-stripe blaasop

(5) Star fruit

For anyone with bad kidneys, just 100ml of this fruit’s juice is already dangerous, because it contains neurotoxins that affect the brain and nerves.

Dangerous Food - Star Fruit raw     Dangerous Food - Star Fruit Juice

(6) Cassava (manioc, tapioca)

The leaves and roots of this root vegetable are full of cyanide. Eating improperly prepared or raw cassava can therefore be deadly. In 2005, 27 children died and a hundred more fell ill after eating cassava as a snack at a school in the Philippines.

Dangerous Food - Cassava Root     Dangerous Food - Tapioca Pudding

(7) Apricot seeds

The seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, which are converted to hydrogen cyanide in the body when eaten. Turkey, which has many apricot plantations, has had several fatal incidents during the past few years.

Dangerous Food - Apricot Tree     Dangerous Food - Apricot Seed

(8) Blood clams

Avoid clams culled from China’s waters. The blood clam lives in low-oxygen environments and as a result ingests more viruses and bacteria, including hepatitis A, hepatitis E, typhoid and dysentery. In Shanghai in 1988, more than 300,000 people fell ill after eating blood clams and 31 people died. It is estimated that around 15 per cent of people who eat the clams become infected.

Dangerous Food - Raw Blood Clams     Dangerous Food - Blood Clams Cooked

(9) Monkey brains

Mainly eaten in Asia, these organs can give you Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, especially when eaten raw.

(10) Bean sprouts

Bean sprouts are one of the worst foods for harbouring E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. Bean sprouts grown in Germany were identified as the likely cause of an outbreak of E. coli that killed 22 people and sickened hundreds more in Europe in 2011.

Dangerous Food - Bean Sprouts raw     Dangerous Food - Bean Sprouts cooked

(11) Red kidney beans

These beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, which is toxic when consumed. The beans should be boiled for at least ten minutes.

Dangerous Food - Red Kidney Beans raw     Dangerous Food - Chilli Con Carne

(12) Hákarl

Described as the “worst tasting food on he planet” by some, this rotten smelling basking shark from Greenland’s coast is considered a traditional Icelandic food and makes the list because it does not have a kidney or urinary tract, meaning that waste and toxic substances are filtered through its skin and flesh, making it the perfect recipe for food-borne illness. In order to filter the waste appropriately to ensure it is safe for human consumption, chefs must first place it in a hole, covering the carcass with gravel and stones and then leaving it to ferment for up to three months. The shark is then cut into chunks which are hung for several months more.

B8C7NX BASKING SHARK     Dangerous Food - Hakarl

(13) Echizen kurage

This poisonous marine animal, also called Nomura’s jellyfish is one of the largest varieties and considered a delicacy by the Japanese. Once its toxic parts are removed, the dish can be eaten without risk as long as it is thoroughly cooked. In Japan you can get echizen kurage vanilla ice cream.

Dangerous Food - Echizen kurage alive     Dangerous Food - Jellyfish Meal

(14) Sannakji

This Korean raw baby octopus is particularly deadly because it continues to move after it has died even after it has been chopped up into small pieces. In some restaurants it isn’t even killed and chopped up, but eaten while still alive. Even when the limbs have been removed from the body and covered in sesame oil, its suction caps still conserve their gripping power so they are able to latch onto your mouth and throat, becoming a choking hazard for novice eaters and causing asphyxiation. According to one diner’s report, it can taste like “a party in your mouth”. Around six people a year die as a result of choking on the tentacles. Then again sannakji connoisseurs actually get off on the sensation of the octopus’ legs attempting to climb back up the throat. Advice for beginners? Chew thoroughly and swallow quickly, if that doesn’t work, drink Coca Cola, apparently it puts those little tentacles off going hiking.

Dangerous Food - Octopus alive     Dangerous Food - Sannakji

(15) Fesikh

This fish dish is eaten on the day of the Egyptian spring festival, Shem el-Nessim, made up of fermented (sometimes rotten), salted and dried grey mullet, prepared by being left in the sun before preservation. The preparation is an elaborate process, the responsibility for which passes down from father to son. However, each year, incorrect preparation leads to bouts of food poisoning – this year so far six people have been hospitalised. Two people died from eating the fish in both 2009 and 2010, and in 1991, 18 people died.

Dangerous Food - Grey Mullet     Dangerous Food - Fesikh

(16) African Bullfrog

This Namibian delicatessen, eaten in whole (not just the legs like in France), contains a variety of strong toxic substances.

Dangerous Food - African Bullfrog alive     Dangerous Food - Frog Legs

(17) Casu Marzu

Pecorino Sardo from sheep’s milk is set aside so that cheese flies can lay eggs inside the rind which then hatch into crawling maggots. These feed on the cheese, aiding fermentation and producing a pungent smell. Officially banned in the EU, the maggots are eaten live with the cheese. According to travellers’ reports, there is still a black market for it and shepherds continue to produce it. When consuming, locals recommend wearing eye protection because the maggots can jump six inches into your eyeballs.

Dangerous Food - Casu Marzu whole     Dangerous Food - Casu Marzu open

(18) Chilli peppers

Regularly, spicy food eating competitions land contestants in hospital, for example recently at the Kismot Killer Curry competition in Edinburgh, Scotland, where several of the eaters were left writhing on the floor in agony, vomiting and fainting, before the ambulance arrived. Paul Bosland, professor of horticulture at New Mexico State University and director of the Chile Pepper Institute, says that chili peppers can indeed be deadly — but most people’s bodies would falter long before they reached that point. ‘Theoretically, one could eat enough really hot chiles to kill you,’ says Bosland, adding that a research study in 1980 calculated that three pounds of the hottest peppers in the world — something like the Bhut Jolokia — eaten all at once could kill a 150-pound person. Chilis cause the eater’s insides to rev up and can cause severe tissue inflammation, which could explain why the contestants in the Killer Curry contest said they felt like chainsaws were ripping through their insides.

Dangerous Food - Bhut Jolokia on plant     Dangerous Food - Curry Dishes

Enjoyed reading this? Perhaps check out some of Trevor’s other Travel Trivia: Albania, Germany, or Papua New Guinea.

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