Experienced Reefer
Puffer fish: ‘too risky to eat’

By Linette C. Ramos
Sun.Star News Cebu - Philippines
April 23, 2003

AFTER four children died reportedly for eating puffer fish or “buriring,” the Department of Health (DOH) 7 yesterday warned the public against eating the poisonous fish, which is abundant during summer.

Doctors at the pediatrics ward of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) said 11-year-old Cristina Estrera is already in stable condition but still needs to be confined for further observation.

Three of her siblings, however, did not make it. Another girl died also for eating puffer fish Monday afternoon.

The Estrera children were rushed to VSMMC past 11 p.m. last Sunday while some 18 other residents of Caubian Island in Lapu-Lapu City fell ill after eating puffer fish.

Puffer fish, which has neurotoxins in its internal organs, are seasonal and said to be abundant in the months of March and April.

Dr. Emmanuel Gines, VSMMC emergency room chief, said the children suffered from poisoning secondary to indigestion.

Cristina’s younger siblings, three-year-old Rosemarie and 10-year-old Angela, did not survive the poisoning and died at the same hospital last Monday. Their four-year-old brother, Stephen, died even before he could reach the hospital.

The Estreras’ neighbor, 10-year-old Rey Cesar Inoc, was already discharged from VSMMC after he was treated last Monday.

Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (Resu) 7 Chief Dr. Junjie Zuasula said the public should avoid eating puffer fish to prevent poisoning.

High toxin

“Puffer fish has very high toxin concentration on its skin and in some of its internal parts like the intestine, ovary and the liver. When this is not properly prepared for human consumption, it causes poisoning so I would advise that we all refrain from eating it,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Although it is unlikely, doctors are not discounting the possibility that the children may have also died of poisoning from cyanide since the fish was reportedly caught through cyanide fishing.

Gines explained that cyanide is very lethal and can cause death almost instantly, or a matter of minutes or hours since its intake.

Angela died at 8:45 a.m. last Monday while Rosemarie died past 5 p.m. of the same day.

“The attending physicians were told that the puffer fish was caught with the aid of cyanide so we also can’t discount the possibility that they died because of that,” Gines told reporters during a press conference at VSMMC yesterday morning.


and yet, the japanese consider it a 'challenging delicacy'


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