January 21, 2013

The world’s most dangerous foods


The humble puffer fish may look cute, but that's before you find out that it contains a poison with the power to both paralyse and suffocate. When prepared properly by having its liver and reproductive organs removed, the Fugu is something of a Japanese delicacy. However, should the chef slip up, munching on the puffer fish could lead to the ingestion of the poison tetrodotoxin, and ultimately a slow and painful death. While there is no antidote, victims can survive if they are given respiratory assistance until the poison wears off. With this in mind, people planning to indulge in some Fugu will want to ensure a licensed chef prepares the fish for them. Acquiring a license to cook the dish is a long and intensive process, with a rather stressful final exam in which the chef must prepare the dish before eating it himself. Alternatively, those desperate to taste the delicacy could choose a non-toxic form of Fugu, which has been bred by a number of Japanese producers.

Ackee Plant

The beloved Ackee plant is the national fruit of Jamaica, but eating it too ripe or not ripe enough could cause a Jamaican vomiting sickness, seizures, or fatal hypoglycaemia. You can tell if the fruit is ripe because its pods will turn red and it will fall open. If you're chowing down on one of these fruits, remember that only the tasty yellow parts are edible, so stay safe and steer clear of the toxic black seeds and red skin.

Casu Marzu

Casu Marzu, which literally translates as "rotten cheese", is a truly stomach churning concept. Hailing from Sardinia, this is a cheese with a gruesome twist - it is home to thousands of wriggling maggots. To create this unique dish, Pecorino Sardo cheese is left outside for cheese flies to lay eggs in. These will then hatch into a pile of living, breathing maggots which feed on the cheese and produce enzymes that promote fermentation and cause fats within the cheese to decompose. Live maggots may not appeal to some, but according to Sardinians, once the maggots are dead the Casu Marzu has gone bad and is no longer fit to eat. This cheese is clearly disgusting then, but why is it dangerous? Well, some maggots are resilient enough to resist stomach acids and take up residence in the intestines. They can bore through intestinal walls, creating serious legions as well as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Not the most appetising thought.

Blood clams

Considered one of the tastiest Chinese delicacies, blood clams can come with some nasty after-effects due to the method of preparation. If you order blood clams in Shaghai they will be quick-boiled, which leaves many viruses and bacteria present, including hepatitis A, E, dysentery and typhoid. Such is the risk of contracting one of these diseases that the clams have been banned in Shanghai since 1988. However, if you encounter these red clams in a sushi dish, they should be safe to eat.

Sannakji (wriggling octopus)

Korean delicacy Sannakji is not for the faint hearted, but if you're looking for a meal that will actively attack you as you eat then this is the dish for you. Minimal preparation is required as raw baby octopus is simply dismembered, smothered in sesame oil and served. The problem is that each tentacle of an octopus encompasses its own brain, and these limbs are likely to keep moving around as you swallow. As a result, the cephalopod's suction cups could stick to the cheeks and throat of the diner, making the sannakji less of a meal and more of a choking hazard.

Giant Bullfrog

While the French might stick to eating frogs legs, Namibians prefer to take it a step further and ingest the whole amphibian. However, this can potentially lead to a nasty case of oshiketakata disease, which is the result of eating a non-mature bullfrog. The bullfrog's skin and organs are dangerous and eating them could cause kidney failure. People who want to catch their own bullfrogs are advised to hold off until the "third rain of spring," and pin the frog down when it starts to croak.


Cassava is something of a staple food in countries including Africa and South America, but it is anything but bland. It is commonly used to make flours and breads, as well as American favourite tapioca pudding. However, if the shrub is prepared incorrectly it is able to produce cyanide - a poison that will harm any human that tries to consume it. This could result in partial paralysis and even death, depending on how much is ingested. In addition to this risk, the plant causes allergic reactions in some people, with experts warning that those with a latex rubber allergy may be more susceptible.

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