health concerns

Japanese City Activates Emergency Alert System After Store Sells Deadly Blowfish

Almost looks friendly… Photo: Jerry Driendl/Getty Images

Residents of Gamagori, Japan, are off to a worse week than even the poor people of Hawaii. Officials yesterday activated the city’s emergency broadcast system, blanketing the city in a blaring alert. The loudspeaker message didn’t warn them of an impending nuclear disaster, though; it was because a local supermarket accidentally sold customers very deadly fish. Fuku, better known as blowfish by Americans, sent Gamagori into full-on freak-out after a store sold several with their incredibly poisonous livers still intact.

Five packages like this one were sold that could be lethal if the fish is consumed. The liver is at top right:

Big-time whoops. Photo: Aichi Prefectural Government’s Department of Health and Public Welfare

No one realized the mistake until a concerned shopper brought a tainted package back into the store. Officials hastily flipped on the loudspeakers, warning any residents with plans for fugu that night to check the package’s origins. The wrong one might contain a neurotoxin capable of asphyxiating them to death in minutes. A city official tells the Agence France-Presse they’re optimistic the alert will be enough — they’ve already located three packages so far, “but we still don’t know where the remaining two are.”

For those who need a quick primer, fugu is a bizarre delicacy in Japan: It’s half fancy fish, half thrill-seeker’s adrenaline ride. It can cost hundreds of dollars, and requires three years of training to cut properly — all parts containing the poison tetrodotoxin have to be removed, or it can be fatal. This includes the fish’s skin and several organs, primarily the liver … which, again, is what the supermarket left in by accident.

Almost every year, somebody in Japan dies from eating fugu that wasn’t prepared right. The untimely end can occur in as few as 20 minutes. Not every blowfish’s toxin is deadly, and there are purportedly even “nearly nontoxic” varieties like yorito fugu — the type the supermarket thought it was packaging up. Either way, the AP reports that after this scare, the store has decided to “no longer sell blowfish.”

Japanese Supermarket Sells Deadly Blowfish by Mistake