Dangerous Foods - Casu Marzu - Rotten Cheese

Many people today are trying hard to ensure the food they eat keeps them alive and healthier. Other people, however, go on an adventure to test whether the food that kills others can kill them, well, maybe not literally but some of these dishes need an extra level of bravery to try. Eating something poisonous without knowing is quite normal and common in many places, but very few people would go for food they know to be toxic. The thrill of experiencing numb lips and sometimes a burning stomach may not be worth the risk, but it turns out some people are daredevils. They stick out their fingers to eat a meal they understand could easily be their last meal.

1. Fugu

Dangerous Foods - Fugu

It is one of the most expensive dishes in Japan. The City of Tokyo banned its sale in most common restaurants and set regulations for 2-year training before any chef could prepare it. This is because the main ingredient of the dish is blowfish/puff fish. This fish’s liver, ovaries, and other internal organs contain a poison called Tetrodotoxin which is 1200 times more poisonous than cyanide. Even with the 2-year training, it takes many years for anybody to trust a chef with this meal. Many deaths were recorded before the bans although most of them are linked to anglers that prepare their catch in a hurry. Only a tiny dose is needed to kill, and it is almost impossible to determine the exact preciseness it requires to make the dish 100 percent safe. Many customers confess to feeling a tingling sensation on the lips when taking it. It is averagely priced at $200 a dish, not really because of the taste but the thrill of cheating death.[1]

2. Cassava

Cassava

Cassava or manioc is a famous root used as a vegetable almost everywhere in the world. While the root is commonly classified in the same group as potatoes, some strains are very poisonous. There is the bitter and the sweet strain cassava. Some people easily confuse the two when eating them raw because you cannot differentiate unless you taste it. The bitter strains which contain traces of cyanide when consumed have caused thousands of deaths around the world. The most tragic case was that of 27 children who died in the Philippines in 2005 after eating raw bitter cassava. Some had taken as little as two bites and still died from cyanide poisoning. However, if prepared and cooked well, these roots lose all their poisonous properties and turn into one of the best sources of starch in the world.[2][3]

3. Fesikh

Fesikh

This is the killer fish dish of Egypt that is bought like candies in the spring festival of Sham El-Nassim. The fish is fermented for months and salted to add flavor and preserve it, but of course, not everyone does it right. The fish contain microorganisms that are associated with huge outbreaks of botulism poisoning which can cause lifelong defects and, in some cases, death. The government has banned the dish and issues warnings every year, but the people still love the dish anyway. The most tragic incident happened in 1991 when 91 patients were hospitalized with Botulism E, the worst in the history of the disease at the time, 18 people died as a result of the infection.[4]

4. Sannakji (Octopus)

Sannakji

Octopus don’t die just because their head is cut off, those scary limbs that can attach themselves to anything continue moving for nearly 1 hour. Despite the danger, the moving ones make the best Sannakji, the most arrestable seafood dish in Korea. This dish made from live or even dead octopus kill up to 6 people every year in South Korea but it is still a must eat for most people. The dangers of this dish have nothing to do with the cooks, just the eater’s ability to chew.

The explanation is quite simple; octopus’ limbs contain neurons that allow the nerves to act on their own even when it is dead. When used for a dish within 1 hour of death, the limbs can still move and attach themselves on surfaces. When eating them, you literally have to chew the limbs to paste before swallowing because they can attach themselves to the esophagus while swallowing and choke you to death.[5]

5. Ackee

Ackee

Ackee is a fruit native to West Africa which became famous in Jamaica in the 19th century brought by emigrants. It is used as a spice for its fleshy substance found around the seeds which turns cream in meals when cooked well making it a perfect spice. The problem starts when you eat unripe Ackee, its pods or even the seeds. This little Jamaican fruit is illegal in the USA because it is the sole cause of Jamaican Vomiting Sickness. Vomiting is just the least of its deadly effects; ackee poisoning causes hallucinations and seizures that drift into unconsciousness and finally death. The worst case happened in Haiti in 2001 where 60 people were poisoned, 36 of them died after eating this fruit. It is, however, a popular delicacy around the world, especially for saltfish lovers.[6]

6. African Bullfrog

African bullfrog

For most people, the very appearance of a frog rules it out as a meal, but this amphibian is a famous delicacy in parts of Europe and Africa. Frog legs are a delicacy in France, but in Namibia, they eat the whole frog. Frogs release toxins through their skin and even retain some in their bodies. These toxins are specifically poisonous to other frogs but also lethal in human beings especially for the kidney.

In Namibia, this threat does not deter the locals from hunting down this large frog species. They believe the toxins are more prevalent in young frogs, so the older ones are the most preferred, but they are not necessarily safe. The hunting season is encouraged after the “third rain” which comes after the mating season. Mating reduces the toxins in the frogs. Cases of kidney failure and poisoning still happen in many places where these frogs are served.[7][8]

7. Blood Clams (Shellfish)

Blood Clams

Shellfish is a great delicacy, well, most shellfish. Blood clams are a type shellfish popularly known for their dark red color. They dive deeper than other shellfish species and hence collect more pathogens in their shells especially Hepatitis A virus. Shanghai China was the worst affected by these viruses in 1988 because of the preference of eating the fish raw or only shallow-boiling it. More than 300,000 people were infected, and 31 died. The Shanghai authorities then banned it, but it is still a delicacy to many especially with the stable supply from the neighboring Jiangsu province where some people farm these little monsters. The fish are known to infect more than 10 percent of eaters with the Hepatitis A virus with Shanghai still the worst affected, but the people are not dropping the delicacy any time soon.[9]

8. Echizen Kurage (Nomura’s Jellyfish)

Echizen Kurage

This is the Japanese term which translates to Nomura’s jellyfish making it the most famous jellyfish food in Japan. These are no tiny box jellyfish; they grow to the size of a full-grown man weighing over 220 kilos. Jellyfish are the biggest threat to Japan’s fishing industry and rather than wander further into the sea to look for fish; the fishermen simply started catching the monsters. These jellyfish are known to feed on tuna, and their bodies accumulate toxins which can only be removed through proper cooking. The poisonous organs of the fish have to be carefully removed as well because the slightest drop of their toxins in food can prove lethal. People soon turned it into a delicacy despite the threat posed by the poisons in the giant jellyfish’s entire body. The danger posed by this dish has led to a lot of caution when handling the food and fatalities are rare.[10][11]

9. Casu Marzu (Rotten Cheese)

Casu Marzu/Rotten Cheese

This is a don’t-try-at-home serving of fermented cheese from Sardinia, Italy which is famed for its maggot flavor. The cheese is made from sheep’s milk but unlike regular cheese; this one is kept in the darkroom for up to 2 months for flies to lay eggs on it. The larvae then feed on the cheese and excrete on it before the cheese becomes edible. The serving may be too disgusting for most faint-hearted people because the maggots are supposed to be eaten with the cheese. The maggots are dangerous because they can poke holes in your intestinal walls causing myiasis which is accompanied by diarrhea and massive vomiting. The dish is banned in most countries, but people still enjoy it especially during weddings.[12]

10. Hakarl (Fermented Shark)

Hakarl (Fermented Shark)

No one visits Iceland without talking about this one. It is simply a serving of rotten shark meat, but the people love it. The smell scares many people, but the real test lies in putting the pieces down your throat. Sharks live in saline waters and to keep their bodies level with the water surrounding them; they retain their urea deposits. The urea toxins in the Greenland shark meat are dangerous, and they make it smell like urine even after the thorough preparation process. The rotting smells accumulate after the weeks or burying the fish in the dark to ferment. Though it doesn’t contain maggots like the rotten cheese, Hakarl has a smell and taste that may blow out your stomach before you even take a bite. Cases of sickness are also rare mostly because the meat is treated for a long time reducing toxin levels.[13][14]

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