From the “you shouldn’t be eating salmon in Thailand anyway” department:
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) – Unscrupulous vendors in Thailand have been selling meat of the deadly puffer fish disguised as salmon, causing the deaths of more than 15 people over the past three years, a doctor said Thursday.
Although banned since 2002, puffer fish continues to be sold in large quantities at local markets and restaurants, said Narin Hiransuthikul of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University Hospital.
“Some sellers dye the meat of puffer fish and make it look like salmon which is very dangerous,” Narin said.
Narin said over the past three years more than 15 people have died and about 115 were hospitalized from eating the fish.
The ovaries, liver and intestines of the puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a poison so potent that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it can “produce rapid and violent death.”
The fish is called fugu in Japan, where it is consumed by thrill-seeking Japanese gourmets for whom the risk of poisoning adds piquancy.
Every year, there are reports of people dying or falling sick in Asia from eating puffer fish. Eating the fish can cause paralysis, vomiting, heart failure and death.
I call bullshit on this story. It sounds like an urban legend. Color aside, puffer meat neither looks nor tastes anything like salmon meat… and anybody that unfamiliar with the fish in question wouldn’t have to be convinced that it was salmon in order to buy it. It could just be sold cheaply, as is. Why go to the trouble of dying it?
Also, the second to last paragraph about Japanese eating fugu for thrills is something oft-seen in the foreign press, but was never evident in all the years I was living in Japan (everybody I knew ate fugu because they liked the taste). I’ve even heard claims from Japan know-it-alls that fugu chefs leave just enough tetrodotoxin on the flesh to give a thrill (but not enough to kill), but I never saw any evidence of this either. The two fugu chefs I asked about it laughed at the question. They also stated that the chances of convincing a licensed fugu chef to prepare fugu livers, ovaries, or intestines for a customer’s thrills are pretty much zero these days.