JOHOR, MALAYSIA— A suspected case of pufferfish poisoning led to the death of an elderly couple in Chamek Village, with one person dead and the other being treated in the ICU.
The couple were 84-year-old Wong Chuanxin and 83-year-old Lin Xiuguan. This was their first time purchasing and consuming pufferfish, which resulted in both of them being poisoned.
Wong Kunshan, the couple’s son, told Malaysia’s Chinese paper China Press that on the morning of Saturday (25 Mar), his father bought five pufferfish from a mobile vendor, and his mother fried two of them for lunch.
Later, at around 2 pm, they had a meal and one of the pufferfish was consumed, with about two-thirds of its portion being eaten.
He said that about 1.5 hours after eating, his mother’s hands, feet, and lips began to numb, accompanied by convulsions.
“I was just returned to my parents’ house to clean a fish tank, and noticed that my mother was not feeling well. ”
“My father also mentioned feeling numb, and that’s when I found out that they had eaten pufferfish and something awry happened, ” he said.
It was around 4 pm at that time, and he immediately took his parents to Kluang Hospital. His mother was immediately admitted to the ICU, but unfortunately, she passed away at 7 pm after attempts to save her.
His father was in good condition when he was admitted to the hospital, but his condition worsened and he was transferred to the ICU at night.
He said that he had reported the incident to the Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, and officials had come to take away both the cooked and uncooked pufferfish for testing.
“I agreed to an autopsy of my mother’s body, and the preliminary report indicated death due to food poisoning. We have since claimed her body for funeral arrangements.”
Mr. Wong said that he knew pufferfish were poisonous, but his elderly parents may not have been aware of this information.
Johor State Assemblyman urged Malaysia’s government ban pufferfish sale
Chew Chong Sin, the Johor State Assemblyman for Mengkibol in Kluang, revealed that the law enforcement department of the Kulai Health Bureau had informed him that the director of health had proposed a ban on the sale of puffer fish in 2017, and had even drafted a bill to amend it.
However, the amendment had not been passed in Parliament yet.
Mr Chew has since called on the Minister of Health to take action and investigate the matter, urging the need to legislate the ban as soon as possible within the scope of legal jurisdiction.
Additionally, he has appealed to fish vendors to actively ban the sale of puffer fish and urged the public to refrain from purchasing fish with unclear origins.
“If the public finds suspicious fish sales on the market or on the Internet, they can report them to the relevant departments.”
Puffer fish, also known as “ikan buntal” in Malay, is a highly toxic fish species and can be used as an ornamental fish. It is found in Malaysian waters and is usually sold without skin, head, or internal organs.
The neurotoxin or tetrodotoxin (TTX) found in pufferfish, which is considered even deadlier to humans than cyanide, can cause adverse effects on human health, and almost all pufferfish are poisonous and contain this toxin in their body parts.
One pufferfish contains enough tetrodotoxin to kill at least 30 adult human.
In Japan, chefs who prepare puffer fish dishes, usually served raw as sashimi or in hot pot with vegetables known as chirinabae, must complete two to three years of training before being qualified to serve the delicacy.
According to the Disease Control Division of Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, there were 55 reported cases of puffer fish poisoning and 17 deaths related to tetrodotoxin exposure in Malaysia between 1985 and 2014.