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Pick Your Poison
MAY 2005
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Video: Fatal Attraction
Video: Deadly Delicacy
Audio: Botox & Piano
Online Extra: Toxic Tale 13
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One mistake in preparation could mean death for connoisseurs of fugu, the poisonous puffer fish that is a high-priced delicacy in Japan. Chefs must pass a rigorous certification process, a timed test to prove their skills at eviscerating, filleting, separating poisonous and edible parts on marked trays, and then identifying the organs with tags. In Tokyo, the city's fugu association administers the examination every August at the Tsukiji Fish Market.
 
Fugu, also known as Takifugu rubripes, contains significant amounts of a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. A lethal dose for a full-grown man would fit on the head of a pin. Symptoms vary in individuals but may include numbness of the lips, tongue, face, and extremities; floating sensation; dizziness; headache; vomiting; abdominal pain; diarrhea; slurred speech; difficulty walking; extensive muscle weakness; and death within a few hours. The substance is 1,200 times deadlier than cyanide, and one puffer fish contains enough poison to kill 30 people. There is no known antidote.

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