The World’s Most Dangerous Meal

Last week, Gamagori City in Japan issued an emergency alert to all residents.  The warning – which included broadcasts over public loudspeakers– concerned food safety.

Fugu (also known as puffer fish or blowfish) is a seafood delicacy.  While the fish’s meat is safe to eat, its organs contain tetrodotoxin, a poison 1,200 times deadlier than cyanide.  A lethal dose of TTX is smaller than the head of a pin, and a single fish has enough poison to kill 30 people.  Japanese chefs train for three years to prepare the dish safely, and 70 percent of applicants fail their exam.

Gamagori City issued its alert after a local grocer accidentally sold five packages of fugu with the toxic liver still present.   Two of those packages remained unaccounted for.

Authorities did not take the risk lightly.  Several fatalities continue to occur every year from eating fugu.

Japanese forensic scientists documented a recent case study.  A man in his seventies died 40 hours after eating fugu prepared by his daughter.  Medical examiners suspected TTX toxicity, but they were unable to obtain clean blood or urine samples to analyze for the poison’s presence, as is normally done.  However, they were able to confirm TTX intoxication by examining tissue samples.  This is the first time tissue analysis has successfully been used to confirm the presence of TTX.

The scientists used Agilent sample preparation solutions in their work.

“The aim of this study was to develop a practical method to analyze TTX from postmortem specimens, including tissues,” the scientists write.  “By using this method, we were able to quantitate low levels of TTX in postmortem specimens.”

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