Latin America & Caribbean

Brazilian puffer fish lunch poisons 11

puffer fish
Image caption A species of puffer fish, one of the deadliest creatures in the ocean

Eleven people fell seriously ill in south-east Brazil after eating a deadly puffer fish for lunch, reports say.

The group of neighbours, including four children, were hospitalised after they made a mistake while preparing the fish - one of the deadliest in the world.

Within minutes all had become violently sick, according to Brazil's RJ TV news. Five have since left hospital.

Puffer fish are highly venomous and contain a toxin which can trigger severe paralysis.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The fish is considered a delicacy in Japan

The neighbours met for lunch on Wednesday in Duque de Caxias, a city on the south-east coast of Brazil.

Quoting a hospital doctor, RJ TV news reported that the group were eating at one of their homes and had known they were being served a puffer fish.

The creature, which contains a toxin more lethal than cyanide, must be expertly prepared to avoid poisoning.


Puffer fish facts

  • There are 120 species of puffer fish worldwide
  • Almost all puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide
  • In Japan, the flesh of some puffer fish is considered a delicacy and can only be served by licensed chefs
  • It is believed that poisonous puffer fish synthesise their toxin from bacteria they eat
  • Some predators, such as sea snakes and tiger sharks, are unaffected by puffer fish poison
  • Scientists believe the puffer fish's unwieldy swimming style led to it evolving its signature "inflatability"

Source: National Geographic


The doctor said one of the neighbours claimed to know how to cook it, but made a mistake in the preparation.

Those affected included five members of two separate families - the De Souzas and the Da Silvas.

Three of the Da Silva children were among those poisoned.

The six others hospitalised were Adriana Fatima Santos, 34, Anderson Lucas, 31, Luciana Goncalves, 22, Maciel Rodrigues de Freitas, 29, and Cauan Goncalves, a child whose age was not known.

Five of the neighbours were discharged from hospital on Friday, according to the news channel. Three are in intensive care and one of the children remains in a serious condition.

Another adult and one of the children are reportedly in a stable condition.

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