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    Pig of the river

    Here‘s the first fugu-eating accident of the year that I’m aware of:

    A woman who ate parts of a poisonous fugu puffer fish sold to her illegally is fighting for her life in a hospital, Ibaraki Prefectural Government officials said.

    Sale of fugu without its poisonous parts requires a special license under the Food Hygiene Law and the fishmonger that sold to the woman did not have one. Hitachinaka public health authorities have shut down the fishmonger.

    Prefectural officials said the woman bought six fugu on Jan. 11 and cooked them in a stew at her home. About three hours after the woman ate the puffer fish’s skin and liver, she started complaining of a tingling in her mouth and hands. Her husband ate only the fish’s flesh.

    I’m assuming she didn’t eat all six livers, or (if my understanding of the strength of the neurotoxin TTX is accurate) there’d be no question of her “fighting for her life” right now, even unconsciously. The liver is full of poison, so much so that it has to be rinsed under water for a VERY long time by a licensed chef in order to be fit for consumption. (The toxin that’s left produces a slight tingling in the lips and mouth that’s supposed to be part of the sensory experience that makes it a delicacy. I also know people who have gotten raging headaches from it, though thankfully they were still alive to complain to me about them.)

    4 Responses to “Pig of the river”

    1. John says:

      Isn’t Ibaraki one of the only, if not the only, prefecture where it’s legal to sell the liver?

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Is it even legal to sell the liver there? I thought it had to be removed before a chef was allowed to get near it. I think they came up with some way of pickling the liver and ovaries to death for, like, years, in order to make them edible, but I don’t know whether even that’s legal. It does serve to illustrate the principle that if it’s (1) found in the ocean and (2) not a rock, the Japanese will find a way to eat it. Kind of endearing, if sometimes hazardous.

    3. John says:

      I had heard that Ibaraki was the only prefecture where it was legal, and that most of the fugu deaths come from that prefecture.

      I find it amusing that when you listen to a group of schoolkids at an aquarium in the States, the word you hear most frequently is “cool”. In Japan the word you hear most frequently is “美味し”.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      As I say, not sure about Ibaraki-ken, though it does seem that many of the deaths or hospitalizations do indeed take place there.

      The aquarium part cracked me up. Never visited one in Japan, but I’m not surprised.

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