Within moments of sitting down to dinner, a Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, family began vomiting, then lost feeling face and body. Eleven members of the family were quickly taken to the hospital and learned that the fish they had eaten was deadly.
Unknown to the family, the fish provided by a friend who had caught it that day was pufferfish – the world’s most deadly fish. Containing tetrodotoxin, a toxin 1,200 times more lethal than cyanide, ingesting pufferfish can prove fatal within 24 hours. A single pufferfish has enough of the toxin to kill 30 adults.
Cristiane Souza had called her local family to enjoy a fish dinner on Wednesday. The family, eager to enjoy the fresh catch, quickly dug in to the meal while Mrs. Souza stood back and waited to fill her plate.
Minutes after their symptoms began, many of the victims were unable to stand or move on their own. Mrs. Souza and other guests quickly helped their family to their cars for a quick drive to the hospital. The guests, including several children, who ate the pufferfish were quickly admitted to the hospital and are in critical condition.
Pufferfish is a rare delicacy in some parts of the world. Chefs who prepare it must be licensed after two years of intensive training. With no antidote to the toxin in pufferfish, the delicacy must be prepared only by trained professionals to avoid poisoning.
No update on the family’s condition is currently available. But this is a pretty good example of why Igor Cornelsen and I avoid risky dishes like these when we dine out.