Watch What You Eat!

Boiled fresh Blood cockle shell_112976494One great thing about travelling to lands far, far away is the fact that you come across dishes so exotic that you can’t get yourself to say “no” to them! While the more adventurous ones are always tempted to take a bite of whatever comes their way, little do they know how dangerous some of the food they eat can be. Executive Traveller takes a look at some of the most dangerous exotic food that can actually cost you your life.

CASU MARZU

This ‘rotting cheese’, a traditional Sardinian dish, is stuffed with live maggots that act as a catalyst in the process of fermentation. What goes wrong is when you eat this, the maggots can live in your body resulting to diarrhoea and vomiting. We don’t mean to scare you if you have developed a taste for this, but that is just the beginning.

MONKEY BRAINS

While most think that eating monkey brains will heighten your senses, what they do not know is that this can lead to an illness- Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. And ironically, it actually affects your brain and turns it into mush.

FUGU

While everyone would love to dig into their freshly made blowfish, no one can deny the dangers of serving an ill-prepared Fugu. In order to prepare and serve Fugu, chefs need to train for three years. And considering that less than a gram of the Fugu’s poison, tetrodotoxin, can freeze muscles and suffocate you, it isn’t really a very long training period.

ACKEE

Jamaica’s colourful national fruit can be quite lethal if you eat the black seeds and the outer red skin. Though the yellow arillus is edible, the fruit also contains a poison called hypoglycin, which is quite lethal.

SANNAKJI

This Korean delicacy boasts of tentacles being cut off a live octopus, dabbed with sesame oil and served. While people swear by the taste, the dish is very dangerous. The suction cups of the tentacles can cause asphyxiation if not chewed up to a pulp before swallowing.

GIANT BULLFROGS

If you are ever n Nambia, you will come to know that one of the culinary specialities of the country is the giant bullfrog! When prepared perfectly, it can be quite tasty, but if the bullfrog is yet to come of age, that might be a bit of a problem. The young of this species of bullfrogs, the ones that are yet to be bred, boast of a poison that can cause kidney failure.

CASSAVA ROOT

Largely used to make tapioca, cassava roots are eaten by almost the entire world. But what remains unknown by most who consume these roots is the fact that if this is not cooked properly, it can produce hydrogen cyanide. While this is a rich source of carbohydrates, if you are not careful, you might just end up consuming some cyanide. The sweet variety of the root is 50 times less harmful than the bitter one. But even then, it packs almost 30 mg of cyanide in each kg.

ELDERBERRIES

While jams, jellies and wines made from elderberries are absolutely lipsmacking, little do people know that the leaves, twigs and seeds of this plant contain a glycoside that produces cyanide. Characterised by nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and coma, along with eating the fruit raw or not straining the fruit properly when making the jam and wine can be lethal.

NUTMEG

Known to be a very potent hallucinogenic, eating 0.2 oz of nutmeg can lead to convulsions and just 0.3 oz can induce seizures. And eating a whole nutmeg can lead to nutmeg psychosis which is pretty fatal.

UNPASTEURISED HONEY

While the thought of drinking honey fresh from the hives is an exciting thought, your spirits might be dampened to know that unpasteurised honey contains grayanotoxin, consuming a spoonful of which can lead to dizziness, weakness, nausea and vomiting and consuming a couple of spoonful can be fatal.

WILD MUSHROOMS

While this is largely a part of the common household diet today, numerous varieties of mushrooms are actually poisonous in nature. For those who prefer picking their mushrooms, it is of utmost importance to know the difference between a toadstool (poisonous mushrooms) and a mushroom. While a mildly poisonous mushroom might leave you with an upset stomach for a few days, consuming a toxic toadstool can actually cost you your life.

SHELLFISH

Yet another delicacy of the coasts, shellfish poisoning can largely be associated with bivalve mollusks (mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops). Shellfish are known to accumulate within them high levels of toxins including the deadly domoic acid which is produced by microscopic algae. Tricky to deal with, cleaning cooking shellfish does not necessarily lead to the removal of these lethal toxins.

STONEFISH

Though it is known to be the most poisonous fish in the world, the flesh of this fish, tender and succulent, is used to make the very popular sashimi dish, okoze. The procedure of removing the 13 venomous spines along its back before it is cooked is not easy. One single sting from the fish is not only painful, but the swelling also results in rapid tissue death. Seizures and paralysis are also not uncommon as far as this fish is concerned.

SILVER STRIPE BLAASOP

Eating a swordfish, they say, is reserved only for the bravest. And eating a silver-stripe blaasop is reserved for the braver still. Like pufferfish, this tasty fish also boasts of containing a healthy dose of tetrodotoxinwhich is lethal when consumed. Before taking a bite out of this delicacy, make sure that its skin, liver and reproductive organs have been removed or else you can end up getting poisoned.

APRICOT SEEDS

While an apple a day keeps a doctor away, apricots aren’t that great for you if you don’t know much about the dangers lurking in this tasty fruit. Known to contain cyanogenetic glycosides, which upon ingestion release hydrogen cyanide, many lives have been lost upon the consumption of these seeds which is known to be great for the health. However, roasting the seeds properly can eliminate the risk of getting poisoned.

BLOODCLAMS

All the way from Shanghai, this bloody delicacy is actually dangerous enough to give you hepatitis. One of the most popular Chinese delicacies, the preparation of this dish only involves boiling the clams quickly. Not only does this procedure leave a lot of toxins and bacteria behind, it also can cause diseases like Hepatitis A, E, typhoid and severe dysentery.

ESCAMOLES

All the way from Mexico, this delicacy that is eaten with tacos, escamoles are actually eggs laid by the highly venomous giant black Liometopum ant. Not only is the collection a dangerous procedure since the ants are very fierce in nature, the buttery and nutty tasting eggs, found in the roots of maguey and agave plants can also cause poisoning.

LUTEFISK

A Norwegian delicacy features a cod soaked in lye for a few days. Specialists say, this makes the flesh caustic enough to dissolve metals. While Scandinavians swear by this delicacy, we take a step back to wonder about the lye marinade which is largely used to clean drains, kill weeds, de-bud cows’ horns, power batteries and manufacture biodiesel. Considering that contact with lye can cause chemical burns, permanent scarring and blindness, the absolute deliciousness of this delicacy remains undecided.

BABY MICE WINE

This popular traditional Korean health tonic are made from little baby mice stolen from their mothers shortly after birth. Stuffed into a bottle of red wine while these little creatures are still alive, they are left to ferment into a drink that vaguely tastes like gasoline. It has been said that many unsuspecting souls have lost their lives choking on the tiny mice.

How to Keep Food Poisoning at Bay while Travelling

While getting poisoned is definitely something your trip can do without, there are times when there is little you can do but succumb to the discomfort of food poisoning. However, by following a few simple rules every time you are on the move, you can avoid the pain that generally accompanies strange food. No matter how much of an adventurer you are, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Choose to eat at places recommended by locals

Always make sure that you ask the hotel staff for their recommendations as far as experimenting with local cuisine is concerned. While Google and guidebooks might offer you several recommendations, the locals have a better idea about the cuisine. If chatting people up is something that makes you jittery, then head straight for the tourist attractions of the place. It is a proven fact that most tourist spots of the world always have some great eateries to drop by at close by.

Do not trust vendors on the street

Though their wares might look tempting, more often than not street vendors do not have adequate permits or licenses to sell food. Coupled with the fact that these are not subjected to any sort of inspections or health checks, they inevitably end up selling stuff of inferior quality.

Inspect the looks of eateries before stepping in

While we’d advise you to never judge a book by its cover, judging an eatery by the way it looks is a definite to do on the list. Starting from the tablemats and ending with the condition of the menu, every little aspect about the appearance of an eatery can help you determine the overall hygiene of the place.

Eat hot cooked food

Eating thoroughly cooked piping hot food is a good way to keep the bacteria at bay. However, it is best to steer clear of fried food and meat. You can never be sure of the oil being use to fry the food and meat if not cooked properly can be hazardous for health.

Choose fruits that you can peel

It is best to eat fruits like bananas or oranges whose outer covering keep the flesh safe from most bacteria. You should also try your best to avoid local fruits that have seeds. While locals might know the exact way to peel the fruits, you might end up nursing an upset stomach or even worse.

Stay away from seafood and dairy products

Seafood if not cleaned or cooked properly can play host to numerous bacteria and toxins. Moreover, seafood can also contain traces of contaminants from the local waters which may cause you severe damage.

Milk and milk products not only contain bacteria, there is also a risk of consuming non-pasteurised elements. In many cases, products stored at improper temperatures may also wreck your digestive system.

Drink bottled or filtered water

Many countries have inadequate water filtration systems, so tap water and ice cubes made from tap water can often lead to food poisoning.Check the seals on all water bottles to verify that they have not been broken or opened, and order drinks without ice.

Home Truths:

Stepping away from the world of exotic food, here’s a list of foods closer home which aren’t as innocent as you think they are!

Cherries

Cherries contain a type of hydrogen cyanide commonly called prussic acid. While swallowing a few pits might cause you no harm, you never know when you might fall sick.

Rhubarb

The oxalic acid present in the rhubarb leaves can cause kidney stones. Though it takes almost 5kg of these leaves to prove to be fatal, it doesn’t take much to make you unwell.

Potatoes

Glycoalkaloids found in the leaves, stems and sprouts of potatoes is known to cause cramping, diarrhoea, headaches, coma and even death. Just 3 to 6 mg per kg of body weight is known to be fatal. Also present in potatoes that have been left for too long in the light, it is best to avoid potatoes with a greenish tinge.

Almonds

Bitter almonds are considered to be lethal since they contain large amounts of hydrogen cyanide. Eating as many as 7-10 bitter almonds can make adults fall violently sick and can prove to be fatal for children.

Tomatoes

Stems and leaves of tomatoes contain alkali poisons that can cause stomach problems. Unripe green tomatoes can lead to the same.

Tuna

The mercury the fish absorbs makes it dangerous when consumed. The mercury can travel through your bloodstream easily and affect your kidneys. It is also known to travel to your brain and drive you insane. Children and pregnant women are advised to not consume tuna at all. It is also a good idea to monitor your intake carefully.

Cashews

Raw cashews found in markets are usually steamed to remove the urushiol, a chemical that is found in poison ivy. High levels of this chemical can prove to be fatal and many fatal allergic reactions have been recorded upon consumption of raw cashews.

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