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J Food Prot. 2009 Apr;72(4):810-7.

Public health response to puffer fish (Tetrodotoxin) poisoning from mislabeled product.

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  • 1Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA.


Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin that occurs in select species of the family Tetraodontidae (puffer fish). It causes paralysis and potentially death if ingested in sufficient quantities. In 2007, two individuals developed symptoms consistent with tetrodotoxin poisoning after ingesting home-cooked puffer fish purchased in Chicago. Both the Chicago retailer and the California supplier denied having sold or imported puffer fish but claimed the product was monkfish. However, genetic analysis and visual inspection determined that the ingested fish and others from the implicated lot retrieved from the supplier belonged to the family Tetraodontidae. Tetrodotoxin was detected at high levels in both remnants of the ingested meal and fish retrieved from the implicated lot. The investigation led to a voluntary recall of monkfish distributed by the supplier in three states and placement of the supplier on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Import Alert for species misbranding. This case of tetrodotoxin poisoning highlights the need for continued stringent regulation of puffer fish importation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, education of the public regarding the dangers of puffer fish consumption, and raising awareness among medical providers of the diagnosis and management of foodborne toxin ingestions and the need for reporting to public health agencies.

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