In Depth

Japanese hunt for deadly blowfish sold in supermarket error

Three out of the five pieces of fugu have been accounted for after warnings broadcast across the city of Gamagori

A Japanese city has broadcast emergency warnings to prevent people consuming blowfish, after potentially deadly portions were mistakenly sold.

Officials in Gamagori activated the town’s emergency loudspeakers - “intended for use in case of North Korean missile attack,” notes The Times - to warn the population about the mistake, and to appeal for the recall of the fugu.

Three of the potentially lethal specimens have been located, but the other two remain at large, local official Koji Takayanagi said.

“We are calling for residents to avoid eating fugu, using Gamagori city’s emergency wireless system,” he said.

“Three packages will be retrieved today but we still don’t know where the remaining two are.”

Fugu “is one of Japan’s most expensive winter delicacies, and is often served in thin slices of sashimi or hot pot,” reports The Guardian.

Japanese chefs are required to obtain a special permit to prepare the fish as “the fish’s skin, intestine, ovaries and liver contain a poison called tetrodotoxin that can be fatal,” adds the paper.

There is no antidote to the poison.

“Fugu lovers say that the presence of a small amount of poison, and the tingling sensation which it produces in the lips and gums, enhances the pleasure of eating the fish,” says The Times.

But other less enjoyable side-effects include salivation, sweating, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea and coma.

Since 2000, there have been 26 deaths from incorrectly prepared puffers, most of them at home rather than in restaurants.

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