A couple are at death’s door after having decided to dine on fugu they caught and prepared themselves, liver and all.
The 68-year-old Nagasaki prefecture man caught a fugu (pufferfish) in a local bay himself, and upon returning home made it into sashimi, liver and all.
Together with his 65-year-old wife, the couple tucked into the meal; an hour later, his wife’s mouth and extremities had gone numb, and soon after the same happened to him.
The pair were conveyed to hospital, and the poison took full effect, resulting in complete paralysis and an inability to breathe. Both were left unconscious in critical condition.
The active neurotoxin in fugu, tetrodotoxin, paralyses victims causing asphyxiation. There is no known antidote, and treatment largely consists of putting victims on life support until the poison wears off.
Fugu cuisine has a notorious reputation even in Japan, where it still maintains niche popularity in spite of regular fatalities.
Restaurants are tightly regulated and chefs must be highly trained, but even so the serving of the liver, the most poisonous organ in the fish but also one of the most celebrated, is banned in restaurants.
However, private individuals are free to prepare and dine on toxic poisons as much as they please, and many still do – in spite of the fact captive farmed non-poisonous fugu are now available.
In Nagasaki prefecture alone, from 2001 to 2008 there were 22 fugu poisoning incidents, 6 of which have been fatal, although this incident is the first since 2009. Prefectural authorities warn that “we would prefer people absolutely avoid attempting to prepare fugu simply at home.”
Online there is a distinct lack of sympathy for the couple:
“Come on, don’t eat the damn liver…”
“Why would you deliberately eat the part which the fish concentrates most of its poison in?”
“Apparently if 5 people eat one liver they will not get a lethal dose. They also say the non-poisonous livers aren’t tasty…”
“It’s a double suicide, right?”
“Over 60 and they still couldn’t work out how dangerous this stuff is.”
“I’m from the area – I’d certainly be grateful if these morons died off…”
“You reap what you sow. Amateurs should not prepare that stuff.”
“They had probably been preparing it themselves it for a long time, so naturally they thought it was a matter of course.”
“Perhaps they were eating a non-poisonous species before, but this time caught the wrong one?”
“It’s habit forming, especially when it makes your tongue go numb.”
“It’s their fault. What a waste of medical expenses.”
“I hope they have to pay for their own treatment.”
“But there’s no antidote?”
“If they can survive long enough it will wear off.”
“There’s no end to these idiots.”