Public Health warning issued against eating pufferfish

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Public Health warning issued against eating pufferfishThe Superintendence of Public Health has issued a warning to the general public and in particular fishing enthusiasts and fishermen, that the notorious pufferfish also known as fugu, bok, blowfish, globefish, swellfish, balloonfish, or sea squab may rarely be caught in territorial waters.

The pufferfish comes from a family of fish (Tetraodontidae) which may contain potent and deadly toxins which can cause severe illness and death even if the fish is frozen or cooked. The highest concentration of the toxins in the pufferfish is found in the ovaries, liver, intestines and skin. Symptoms following ingestion of such fish occur within minutes and rarely later than 6 hours after ingestion. These may include numbness of lips, the face and extremities, sweating, weakness, tremor, incoordination, cyanosis, hypotension, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Cardiac arrythmias may precede complete respiratory failure and cardiovascular collapse. Where death occurs it is usually within 6 hours and sometimes as rapidly as 20 minutes following toxin ingestion.

Although in many far eastern countries pufferfish or fugu is considered as a delicacy and can only be prepared by Government-licenced specialised cooks, pufferfish poisoning is the most common fish poisoning claiming the lives of 179 people over a ten year period.

Although pufferfish is not endemic of the Mediterranean, the presence of such fish in the Mediterranean has been reported by other countries in the recent past (Lebanon, 2008; Greece, 2009) but it can now be confirmed that it is being caught even locally.

Thus in view that pufferfish is not endemic to Malta and fishermen and fishing enthusiasts might hence not be aware of the dangers related to such fish, the Superintendence feels obliged to inform the general public to avoid any mishaps. This is also in line with EC Regulation 853 of 2004, which prohibits the placing on the market of such fish.

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