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Food Safety Focus (144th Issue, July 2018) – Food Incident Highlight

Beware the Fatal Tetrodotoxin of Mudskipper-like Toxic Gobies

Recently, media reported that some people had entered Mai Po Marshes without authorisation to catch mudskippers. This practice may pose not only environmental issues but also potential food safety concerns.

Mudskippers, for example Boleophthalmus pectinirostris, are a member of the Gobiidae family (gobies). They look similar to another member of Gobiidae family, Yongeichthys criniger, which is one of the few gobies that contain a fatal toxin called tetrodotoxin. Tetrodotoxin also occurs in some puffer fish.

Tetrodotoxin can affect a person's central nervous system, and in extreme cases, death can occur. The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking and has no antidote. Food poisoning and even death cases from eating toxic gobies have been reported in Mainland China. The public should be aware of the risk of eating toxic gobies mistaken for mudskippers.