And people ask if sushi is safe to eat! The FDA has issued a warning to consumers regarding monkfish, as, apparently the Hong Chang Corp. has imported potentially deadly puffer fish (fugu) into the US and labeled it ‘monkfish,’ While fugu is a well regarded (and potentially dangerous) sushi dish, if not prepared properly the tetrodotoxins it can contain may sicken or kill a person. Monkfish, of course, contains none of these toxins, so what a surprise this must be to anyone who eats the mislabeled fish. Especially since this ‘monkfish’ will be sold by your normal fishmonger, ready to be put in a pan and cooked up at home. Common food storage and preparation techniques do not destroy tetrodotoxins, so while cooking the fish may kill bacteria, if it is poisonous, you’re in for an unexpected treat. Even touching contaminated fish can be enough to seriously injure or kill a person.
Fugu is a unique dish, prepared only by licensed chefs who are skilled in preparing the fish for safe dining. Even so, Japan reports a number of deaths per year related to fugu consumption, so when the fish is sold to unknowing consumers, either accidentally or negligently, it creates a very dangerous situation. It feels like one more example of the dangers of not knowing where your food is coming from or who is in charge of ensuring its safety (currently there are a number of investigations into imports, such as the poisoned pet food from China, as well as possibly contaminated toothpaste).
But, people often ask is sushi safe? Generally speaking, it is as safe as any other food, when prepared properly (with the exception of certain specialties such as fugu). I don’t hear many people ask about the safety of our other foodstuffs, but are worried about that piece of tuna being served rare in a restaurant. If ignorance is bliss, there are going to be a lot of happy people in the hospital as this story continues to develop.
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