If you consider burning the roof of your mouth on a piping-hot piece of pizza eating dangerously, check out these six foods—from poisonous fish to toxic fruit to cheese crawling with maggots—that can really wreak havoc on your health (and even kill you!) if not prepared correctly. Bon appétit!
Also known as fugu or pufferfish, this popular Asian fish might just be the most famous dangerous food in the world, making news every once in a while when someone inevitably drops dead after eating a dish of this delicacy. To be sure, it can be consumed safely, but the problem is that some of the fish’s internal organs contain terodotoxin—a deadly neurotoxin— and while specially trained chefs are supposed to be able to separate the safe-to-eat meat from the toxic parts, they can’t (like really, really can’t) make a mistake. Adding to the excitement, there are actually people who request a bit of the poisonous part in order to live on the edge and experience a little of the tingling sensation that’s actually a poisoning symptom. But it’s hard to feel tingling—or anything else, really—when you’re dead.
2. Live Baby Octopus (Sannakji)
When you get octopus at a restaurant, it’s typically cooked or maybe served raw as sushi or sashimi. The point is it’s dead. However, eating a live baby octopus is actually a thing. While it’s quite popular in South Korea, plenty of Korean restaurants serve it here in the U.S., too. Trying to take down a slippery, still-wriggling sea creature sounds pretty unappealing to begin with, but it can be a serious choking hazard if the mollusk’s suction cups on its tentacles get stuck to the inside of your throat, lodging the octopus there. A handful of people reportedly die this way every year in South Korea, and one guy even tried to blame his girlfriend’s death on a live-octopus choking incident, when, it turned out, he had actually murdered her.
Bite into a typical fruit that isn’t yet ripe and it might taste bad, but do the same thing with an unripened ackee and you’ll be dealing with more than just an undesirable flavor. Ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica, is actually a pod that must ripen from green to red and split open before being harvested, since the unripe version contains a toxic compound that can cause something called Jamaican Vomiting Sickness. But you can’t just eat the ripened fruit and assume you’re in the clear; the fruit’s large black seeds that surround the edible yellow flesh are also toxic and must be avoided.
4. Blood Clams
Named for the bright red liquid that spills out of their shells thanks to their high levels of hemoglobin, these clams—found around the world, including up and down the Eastern Seaboard—are usually safe to eat. Issues arise when they are harvested from bacteria-filled waters, which may cause them to carry viruses like Hepatitis in their liquid and could infect those enjoying the bloody suckers. They were once banned in Shanghai for this reason.
This member of the Synanceiidae family of venomous fish that lives mainly in the Indian and Pacific Oceans holds the honor of being the world’s most venomous fish; just stepping on one of its many spines can kill you. So why would anyone want to eat it? (Especially considering what it looks like?) We’ll never know, but it’s served in Japanese restaurants as “Okoze” sushi and safe to eat so long as the chef prepares it correctly, removing the venom sacs and spine, and doesn’t accidentally poke himself in the process.
6. Italian Maggot Cheese (Casu Mazru)
If you’re easily grossed out and haven’t stopped reading by now, well, now’s the time to do it. Dubbed “the world’s most dangerous cheese,” Casu Marzu has been banned by the European Union but is still made on the Italian island of Sardinia. Here’s the (disgusting) deal: After flies lay eggs on fresh Pecorino cheese, the cheese is left in a dark place for a couple of months, when the eggs hatch into larvae, which, in turn, eat the rotting cheese and excrete it back out onto the cheese. People then eat the live maggot-covered cheese as part of celebrations. If those indulging don’t chew and kill the maggots before swallowing, however, there’s a chance they can live within the intestines and cause all kinds of trouble. OK, we’re done here.
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