Puffer Fish Russian Roulette Ends As Scientists Breed Non-Lethal Version

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The fugu is one of the world’s most dangerous foods, thanks to a concentration of anhydrotetrodotoxin 4-epitetrodotoxin in the liver or ovaries that is 1,200 times more lethal than cyanide.The poison paralyses the nerves and prevents the lungs from working. There is no antidote and death occurs within minutes – with the first indication that all is not well reportedly a numbness of the lips.

Only specially-licensed chefs are qualified to prepare this winter delicacy for human consumption and there are several fatalities every year, mostly among sport fishermen who think they know how to remove the poisonous parts.Now an aquaculture company based in the southern prefecture of Ehime said it had raised 50,000 non-poisonous fugu at a fish farm.

But many fugu chefs – who are traditionally bound to commit ritual suicide with their own fish knife should one of their customers expire after eating one of their meals – said they preferred to take their chances with the potentially deadly wild varieties.

“It’s a very tasty fish, but that’s not the only reason people choose to go to a fugu restaurant,” said Shinichi Ueshima, the chef at the Dote fugu restaurant in Yokohama.

“It’s obviously more than a little exciting to go to a restaurant knowing that it might be the last meal that you ever eat,” he said. “Where is the enjoyment in eating something that has no risk in it?”

Fugu chefs consider themselves among the elite in the very competitive world of Japanese cuisine and are required to undergo three years of training and apprenticeship – followed by a test that just 35 per cent of applicants pass – before they are permitted to prepare their first fish.

(source)

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