The Superintendence of Public Health warned today against consumption of puffer  fish (Tetraodontidae) since it may contain potent and deadly toxins which can cause severe illness and death even if the fish is frozen or cooked.

The superintendence said that although the fish is rare around Malta,  it had received reports that this fish is now being caught by Maltese fishing enthusiasts.

The highest concentration of the toxins in the puffer fish is found in the ovaries, liver, intestines and skin. Symptoms following ingestion of such fish occur within minutes and rarely later than 6 hours after ingestion.  These may include numbness of lips, the face and extremities, sweating, weakness, tremor, incoordination, cyanosis, hypotension, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Cardiac arrythmias may precede complete respiratory failure and cardiovascular collapse. Where death occurs it is usually within 6 hours and sometimes as rapidly as 20 minutes following toxin ingestion.

Although in many far eastern countries pufferfish or fugu is considered as a delicacy and can only be prepared by Government-licenced specialised cooks, pufferfish poisoning is the most common fish poisoning claiming the lives of 179 people (abroad) over a ten year period, the superintendence said.

Although pufferfish is not endemic of the Mediterranean, the presence of such fish in the Mediterranean has been reported by other countries in the recent past (Lebanon, 2008; Greece, 2009) but it can now be confirmed that it is being caught even locally. 


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