Would you eat cheese filled with maggots or shark meat that tastes like urine, or a fish a thousand times more toxic than cyanide? All three of these foods are on a list of the world’s most dangerous foods, and all three of them are still immensely popular.
Some of these foods are illegal, and some of them are just highly regulated. Some of them are delicious, others are widely considered disgusting (see the aforementioned pee-flavoured shark) What all of them have in common is that people eat them, even though they’re dangerous or even deadly.
What would spur someone to eat some of the world’s most dangerous foods? Read on to find out more about these dangerous delicacies!
1. Fugu: The poster child for tasty toxins, the fugu (blowfish) is so toxic without proper preparation that restaurant prep of the famous fish is heavily regulated in its native Japan. The culprit is a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which shuts down nerve signalling. It’s 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide, and there’s enough of it in fugu to kill someone if the toxic parts aren’t removed.
2. Hakarl: This Icelandic delicacy, where a raw Greenland shark is cured and dried for 6 months, is dangerous if the proper preparation isn’t followed. That’s because Greenland sharks filter their waste through their skin, meaning that the skin is likely to be filled with toxic substances like urea.
3. Ackee: This red/orange fruit is common in West Africa and Jamaica, and it splits open when it’s fully ripe. You really don’t want to eat it before it splits, because the unripe flesh carries a toxin called hypoglycin, which stops the body from converting food into simple sugar, resulting in dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Clinically, ackee poisoning has the charming name of “Jamaican vomiting sickness.”
4. Cassava: Native to South America, cassava root is delicious when cooked. But, when eaten uncooked or without fermentation, it releases an enzyme that turns another chemical in the root into cyanide. There’s enough cyanide in improperly-cooked cassava to give someone a case of acute cyanide intoxication!
5. Pangium Module: Also known as “the football fruit,” the pangium fruit is toxic enough that they have to be boiled and then fermented while buried in ash and banana leaves for forty days. That gives enough time for the hydrogen cyanide to finish being washed out of the fruit itself, or the seeds (pictured below)
6. San-nakji: This Japanese preparation of raw, long-arm octopus isn’t poisonous, like many of the others on the list. But, since the fish is killed right before being presented, the octopus’ complex nervous system means that the tentacles can still twitch. That presents a problem to the careless diner, with the potential for flailing suckers to stick to the inside of an esophagus. People have actually died this way.
7. Casu marzu: An Italian delicacy, this sheep’s-milk cheese is filled with live maggots capable of launching themselves up to 6 inches. Because the maggots are capable of jumping, and because the cheese is considered best eaten with the still-living maggots in it, diners are advised to hold their hands over their food to prevent the maggots from leaping out at their eyes. But the real problem happens if the maggots are able to survive the whirlwind tour through the digestive system, as they can make a cozy little home in your intestines and cause nausea, vomiting and blood-filled diarrhea.
8. Hot dogs: Eaten in the barbaric wilderness known as “North America,” the “hot dog” (made of processed meat) is the top cause of food-related choking deaths in children under three. The problem is the food’s cylindrical shape, perfectly suited to lodge in a small esophagus.