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Neuroscience For Kids

Fish Recalled! May Contain Tetrodotoxin!!
pufferfish May 25, 2007

If you are planning a delicious dinner of monkfish, check the box first. It may not be monkfish at all -- it may be pufferfish and it could contain tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin.

pufferfish The Hong Chang Corporation (Santa Fe Springs, CA) has voluntarily recalled 282 boxes (22 lbs. each) of frozen fish labeled as monkfish after two people in the Chicago area became sick when they ate soup made with the fish. The US Food and Drug Administration analyzed samples of the fish and confirmed that it contained tetrodotoxin (TTX).

pufferfish TTX blocks sodium ion channels in the membranes of nerve cells. When sodium ion channels are blocked, a neuron cannot generate an action potential and transmission of information fails. A variety of sensory, motor and respiratory symptoms can occur in people who ingest TTX. Such symptoms include tingling, numbness, headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, movement problems, and even death due to paralysis of the muscles used to breathe.

The dangers of pufferfish and TTX are well known to chefs and diners in Japan. In Japan, people eat pufferfish as a delicacy called "fugu." Although skilled chefs who must be specially trained and licensed to remove TTX from the pufferfish by discarding the liver, skin and eggs, a few people have died after eating fugu.

So, check the fish box for one panel that reads, "MONK FISH GUTTED AND HEAD-OFF PRODUCT OF CHINA" and another panel that reads, "MONK FISH; Imported by: Hong Chang Corp., Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670; Product of China (P.R.C.)." If you have one of these boxes of fish, DON'T EAT THE FISH: take it back to the place you bought it and get a refund.

References and more information:

  1. Neurotoxins - Neuroscience for Kids
  2. FDA recall notice

Copyright © 1996-2007, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington