While sashimi and Japanese raw cuisine rely on delicate flavours, fugu to ika hold potential unseen threats without proper handling first. Even salmon or maguro flowing routinely through Tsukiji market warrant utmost care against parasites and poisons in their fresh state. Before dipping another nigiri, beware of these 15 fish you should take caution eating raw and unprepared.
The infamous Fugu, or pufferfish, tops our list. Pufferfish are notorious for being one of the most poisonous fish in the world. They contain a toxin called tetrodotoxin, a toxin more potent than cyanide. It can cause paralysis, respiratory failure, and death in humans.
Pufferfish are a delicacy in Japan, where they are known as fugu, but they must be prepared by specially trained chefs who know how to remove the toxic parts. Even a tiny mistake can be fatal.
Stonefish are the most venomous fish in the world. They have 13 spines on their back that can inject a potent neurotoxin that can cause intense pain, shock, and death. Stonefish are also masters of camouflage, blending in with rocks and coral. They can easily be stepped on or touched by unsuspecting swimmers or divers. Stonefish are edible, but they must be skinned and cleaned properly to remove the venomous spines.
Barracuda are sleek and fast fish that can reach speeds of up to 40 km/h. They have sharp teeth and a strong bite that can inflict serious injuries. Barracuda are also known to be aggressive and unpredictable, sometimes attacking humans without provocation. Barracuda are edible, but they may carry a toxin called ciguatera, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and neurological symptoms.
Blowfish are similar to pufferfish, but they live in freshwater. They also have the ability to inflate themselves when threatened, and they contain the same deadly toxin, tetrodotoxin. Blowfish are eaten in some parts of Asia, but they are very risky to consume. There is no antidote for tetrodotoxin, and the symptoms can appear within minutes of ingestion.
Red lionfish are beautiful but deadly fish that have invaded the Atlantic and Caribbean waters. They have venomous spines that can inflict painful and potentially life-threatening wounds. Red lionfish are also voracious predators that threaten the native marine ecosystems. Some people eat lionfish as a way of controlling their population, but they must be careful to avoid the spines and cook the fish thoroughly.
Great white shark
Great white sharks are the apex predators of the ocean, and they have a fearsome reputation for attacking humans. They have powerful jaws, razor-sharp teeth, and a keen sense of smell that can detect blood in the water. Great white sharks are not commonly eaten, but some people do hunt them for their fins, meat, and liver oil. However, eating shark meat can be risky, as it may contain high levels of mercury and other toxins.
Tigerfish are ferocious fish that live in the rivers and lakes of Africa. They have large, protruding teeth that can tear through flesh and bone. Tigerfish are known to attack humans and even crocodiles. They are also very fast and agile, making them difficult to catch. Tigerfish are edible, but they must be handled with care and cooked well, as they may carry parasites and diseases.
Shellfish (Oysters, Clams, and Mussels)
Shellfish like oysters, clams, and mussels are a raw delight but risky. They can harbor harmful bacteria like Vibrio, which causes severe food poisoning. Eating them raw requires freshness and proper sourcing, so always ensure they’re from a reputable supplier.
Scombroid Fish (Tuna, Mackerel, and Mahi-Mahi)
Scombroid poisoning is a risk with fishes like tuna, mackerel, and mahi-mahi. This occurs when the fish isn’t properly refrigerated and histamine levels rise, causing allergy-like symptoms. To avoid this, always consume fresh and properly stored fish.
Salmon is a sushi staple, but it’s not without risks. Raw salmon may contain parasites like Anisakis, which can cause severe gastrointestinal distress. Farmed salmon is generally safer, but it’s best to eat it cooked to avoid any risks.
Swordfish, a popular delicacy, can be risky when eaten raw. It may contain high levels of mercury and other heavy metals, which are harmful in large quantities. Pregnant women and young children should avoid it altogether.
Tilefish might not be as well-known, but it’s equally concerning. Like swordfish, it’s known for high mercury levels. It’s best to limit consumption, especially for vulnerable groups like pregnant women and children.
Marlin, often used in sashimi, poses a similar risk as swordfish and tilefish. Its high mercury content can be detrimental to health if consumed in large amounts. It’s advised to enjoy marlin in moderation.
Escolar, also known as oilfish, can cause digestive issues when eaten in large quantities. It contains wax esters, which are hard to digest and can lead to gastrointestinal distress. It’s best consumed in small portions.
Any fish, regardless of its type, that has gone bad due to improper storage or handling. Spoiled fish can have a foul smell, slimy texture, and cloudy eyes. Eating spoiled fish can cause food poisoning, which can result in vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. To avoid spoiled fish, always check the freshness and quality of the fish before buying or eating it, and store it in the refrigerator or freezer.