Latest News

Monday, 2nd July 2012
In General Japan News,

Pufferfish law change 'won't increase poison cases'

The Japanese fugu, or pufferfish, has long been one of the nation's most famous delicacies – largely because it has to be prepared by specially trained chefs and eating the wrong part of it can cause a slow and painful death.

In light of this, it was no great surprise that a move to relax the laws surrounding its preparation were greeted with scepticism, but officials are adamant that changing the laws will not lead to any more cases of poisoning, AFP reported.

"We have concluded that the revision of the regulation won't lead to any chances of triggering fugu poisoning," a Tokyo Metropolitan government spokesperson told the news agency.

Every year a handful of people in Japan are rushed to hospital after eating the fugu, as even minimal consumption of the deadly neurotoxins contained in parts of the fish can cause breathing problems, paralysis and, in extreme cases, death.

Official figures from the Japanese health and welfare ministry reveal that 17 people became ill after eating pufferfish in 2011, with one fatality.

However, it is this risk and the tingling numbness that the fugu leaves on diners' lips that makes it such an attraction for thrill-seeking tourists, and some people have even been known to request the dangerous internal organs be served to them.

Indeed, the liver of the fugu is considered by some to be the most delicious part, but it is highly poisonous and its sale was banned in 1984.

Currently, chefs must undergo complex training and restaurants are only legally allowed to serve the speciality if they are fully qualified, so many people expressed surprise that authorities planned to relax the rules.

Yet officials from the Tokyo Metropolitan government have revealed that the law change will not put lives at risk and fugu will still have to be prepared by a qualified chef.

The major change will be that restaurants can now buy and sell pre-prepared fugu, which authorities say is just bringing the law in line with existing practice.

Concerns also exist that the practice could damage the exclusive industry by undermining the skill and training necessary to be able to prepare it, but fugu chef Mr Suzuki is not worried.

"Due to the deregulation, more restaurants can serve fugu so that more customers can enjoy it and then will be properly aware of the culture of eating fugu," he said to the news provider.

"We licensed chefs will continue taking care of it properly."

Written by Susan Ballion