The city of Gamagori, Japan, has alerted its residents by loudspeaker, after the sale by mistake in a local supermarket of fish pieces containing a deadly venom. The use of the earthquake warning system has been made necessary by the extreme toxicity of Fugu, a fish whose liver and genitals contain a deadly venom.
The Japanese have been consuming it since the beginning of time. It is the emblem of dangerous fish because carrying a deadly poison, the tetrodotoxin, which has no antidote. But if it is prepared in the rules of the art and by a cook specially trained for this task (it is necessary to remove the liver and the gonads), the Fugu does not pose a health problem. Which is not always the case of its dangerous congeners, around the world.
The hit parade of deadly venoms
Among the deadly venom that can be found in the sea, there are those that can be encountered in diving, such as the Striped Tricot, a non-aggressive snake, but whose venom is ten times more powerful than that of the cobra, and therefore deadly for man, and those of the murderous jellyfish of the Philippines. There are also untimely encounters, like that with the sea urchin flower of the tropical regions and that with the Conus, a mollusc that can still be found in the Mediterranean, or that with the famous stonefish, the Stone Fish, placed at the bottom of the tropical beaches, strangely resembling a stone, hence its name.
Ciguatera, a real health problem
Beside the deadly venoms in situ, there are also the venoms of the fish that one might find on one's plate. She is well known to all those who once went to the West Indies. The discovery of a recent case in Martinique led to a drop in fish consumption on the island. People are now reluctant to buy. Yet there is not much to fear in this area of the West Indies.
This is not the case in many countries: there are indeed more than 400 species contaminated by this microalga whose consumption can be fatal. Among them are popular fish such as barracuda, jacks and grouper, which are now banned from fishing in all the islands of the North West Indies. 50,000 people worldwide are infected each year, making it the largest international seafood poisoning.
There is no means of detection. The only attitude is to trust the fishermen. As we trust the cook for the fugu.
Poisoning during the consumption of certain fish
Fugu is the fish with a deadly toxin without antidote known to date that the Japanese adore and who derives its celebrity from its dangerousness but also its taste, very particular. Why this paradox? Probably because of the "thrill", the perfectly controlled risk of this "Japanese roulette" ... But above all, because of its absolutely remarkable and unique taste, according to the specialists of this millennial tradition of the consumption of raw fish. The tingling on the lips due to an infinitesimal dose of poison would add to the pleasure of gourmets.
This tradition of raw fish, sushi and sashimi, is invading our city centers, and poses more down-to-earth problems of unpleasant classic intoxications than of deadly risks. But there is also the risk of catching a drink, the anisakiasis, which will nest in the wall of our stomach to cause a whole state of unpleasant complications.
A fun exception: the Fugu, the "black star"
The Japanese love it and are willing to pay a lot for their delicate meat. But if the fish is poorly prepared, it's death ... These are the foundations of the folklore that surrounds fugu in Japan.
It is a fish that is very abundant and therefore very consumed for over 2000 years, by the Japanese and Chinese. With whom he has caused countless deaths, requiring the training of experienced cooks to continue his consumption. So there is an art of preparing fugu. Very codified, but which requires absolute trust towards the cook.
In reality, it's risky, but it's not very complicated. Just peel the fish and lift the fugu nets, still alive, taking care not to pierce the liver as well as the gonads. It is in these organs that we find the poison. The flesh of the fish then becomes perfectly edible.
We understand that the care of the artist cook does not necessarily rhyme with that of large distribution. It is the presence of poorly prepared fugu in a Japanese supermarket that has just sparked a wave of emotion that had been calmed for thousands of years.
To learn more, there is an excellent record on the site "eat it". To read and to taste!