ELDERLY COUPLE DIES AFTER EATING POISONOUS FISH
An elderly couple in Malaysia died from consuming poisonous pufferfish, causing their daughter to call for more stringent regulations to avert similar tragedies. Pufferfish meat, commonly known as ‘fugu’ in Japanese, is considered a highly prized delicacy despite being extremely toxic.
The fish’s organs, skin, blood and bones contain high levels of tetrodotoxin, a deadly poison that can cause rapid onset of symptoms such as tingling around the mouth and dizziness. Ingestion of the toxin can lead to convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and ultimately, death, according to medical experts. Ng Chuan Sing and Lim Siew Guan, in their early eighties, bought two pufferfish from an internet vendor on March 25, according to officials in the southern Johor state. Later that day, Lim cooked the fish for lunch, and soon after, she began to feel “breathing difficulties and shivers.” authorities said.
About an hour after consuming the meal, Ng Chuan Sing began exhibiting comparable symptoms, according to authorities. The couple was immediately taken to the hospital, where they were admitted to the intensive care unit. Unfortunately, Lim Siew Guan was declared deceased at 7:00 pm. local time. Ng Chuan Sing slipped into a coma for eight days, but his health further deteriorated, and he passed away on Saturday morning, as per Ng Ai Lee, the couple’s daughter, who held a press conference at their residence on Sunday before their funeral.
Ng called for those responsible for her parents’ death to be held accountable under the law, and urged the authorities to expedite investigations. She also appealed to the Malaysian government to strengthen enforcement measures and raise public awareness about pufferfish poisoning, given that at least 30 species of pufferfish are commonly found in the surrounding waters, in order to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. The sale of toxic and harmful food, such as pufferfish meat, is prohibited under Malaysian law, and offenders may be fined up to RM10,000 ($2,300) or face a prison sentence of up to two years.
However, despite these laws, poisonous pufferfish are still commonly sold at many wet markets across Malaysia. According to Aileen Tan, a marine biologist and director at the Universiti Sains Malaysia Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies, pufferfish meat is often viewed as exotic and therefore attracts consumers.
“Once pufferfish have been cleaned and sold as slices, it is nearly impossible for the public to know the type of fish that they purchased,” Tan warned. “As for sellers, it is debatable on their (part) if they are aware (of the risks).
“There needs to be more awareness about the risks of consuming puffer fish — maybe authorities need to look at special certifications for vendors and suppliers.”
Authorities are looking into who sold them the fish as a result of the public outcry and compassion following their deaths.
“The state district health office has opened investigations under the Food Act 1983… and carried out an investigation on the ground to identify the supplier, wholesaler and seller of the pufferfish,” Ling Tian Soon, chief of the Johor Health and Unity Committee, said in a statement issued Sunday.
He added that his health department would be holding discussions with the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia, a government agency overseeing seafood supplies in the country, as well as local universities with fishery expertise.
“Information on pufferfish has also been posted on the Health Ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Facebook page,” Ling said.
“We urge the public to be careful when choosing their food, especially if it has known risks.”