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Food Safety Focus (122nd Issue, September 2016) – Food Incident Highlight

Eating Puffer Fish – A Kiss of Death

Last month, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) reported a poisoning case related to the consumption of dried puffer fish bought locally. Subsequently, the Centre for Food Safety issued a food alert upon confirming the concerned product sample provided by the patient contained tetrodotoxin (TTX).

Eating puffer fish and its product is a kiss of death by TTX, a potentially lethal toxin produced primarily by marine bacteria and accumulated in puffer fish via the food chain. Besides the liver, eggs and skin, TTX may also be present in other parts of puffer fish (e.g. maw and flesh) as a result of cross-contamination. TTX is heat-stable, therefore likely remains in fish tissue even after cooking or drying.

From 2005 to 31 Aug 2016, CHP recorded a total of 23 cases of TTX poisoning affecting 40 persons. Currently, there is no known antidote for TTX poisoning, thus avoid consuming puffer fish (all parts) is the best way to prevent it. The trade is reminded that selling food unfit for human consumption may be subject to a fine and imprisonment upon conviction.