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Golden Tips about Dangers in Food During Travel

Updated on September 30, 2011

Food Safety In Foriegn Countries


Sight-seeing and tasting various kinds of food from different cultures make our trips to foreign countries full of excitement. Nonetheless, subtle facts about food safety widely known to the local people may not be apparent to visitors from far-away-countries. In this article, some of the facts will be shared and discussed.

Avoid Taking Alcohol if You Eat DURIAN

Durian is a favorite fruit in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. It is a seasonal fruit produced between May to early August each year. The local people know very well that if a man drinks alcohol and eats durian at the same time, he may get sick on the very day. The adverse effect can be very serious, and may result in death. I have not seen any medical study showing the reason for this to happen. But, here is a hypothetic explanation. When durian meets alcohol, in man’s digestive system, some adverse chemical reactions will take place. Chemicals unacceptable to the human body are released. These chemicals will harm human body system and result in serious ailments, and even death.

As for how long one has to refrain from alcohol after one has eaten some durian, is a good question for which I have not found a specific, clearly supported answer. By reasoning, one may want to refrain from alcohol for up to probably one week after one has eaten some durian. The reason is that food will stay in our digestive system for a period of 24 to 72 hours. It takes a few days for ingested food to be totally eliminated from our digestive system. To be safe rather than feeling sorry for oneself later, one may want to consider refraining from alcohol for as long as 7 days after enjoying the DURIAN.

Durian alone is a safe fruit to eat.

Horseshoe Crab

Horseshoe crab is popular in countries like Thailand and Vietnam. It is also eaten in other countries like China and Malaysia.

The edible part of a horseshoe crab is the roe or eggs. The roe may contain a toxin named tetrodotoxin. The toxin is also known as “tetrodox”. As of today, it is a neurotoxin that has no antidote. According to an author, Kanchanapongkul (2008), between 1994 and 2006, a total of 280 victims were admitted to Chon Buri Hospital for tetrodotoxin poisoning as a result of eating the toxic roe of the horseshoe crabs. Chon Buri is a province by the Gulf of Thai. Reported symtoms of tetrodotixin poisoning include dizziness, lingual numbness, numbness around the mouth, nausea, vomiting, respiratory failure (also known as acute ventilatory failure), transient hypertension, drop in blood pressure, fixed and dilated pupils, paralysis of extraocular muscles controlling eye movements, excessive production and passage of urine. In some extreme cases, tetrodotoxin poisoning resulted in death and anoxic brain damage. Anoxic brain damage is caused by inadequate oxygen supply to the brain cells.

Some claim that horseshoe crabs are safe for man to eat if they were of the right species and cooked by proper procedures. On one occasion, an old man telling me that when catching horseshoe crabs by the sea, he would take a sniff when he picked up any horseshoe crabs. If the smell or odor was not right, he would immediately throw the horseshoe crab away as it contained “poison”. However, when horseshoe crabs are served, there is no way for me to know whether the food is safe for consumption. It is better to be safe than feeling sorry and, hence, I would choose to avoid the risk of potential poisoning effect, which may have a log-lasting effect on life if not death.

Puffer Fish

A puffer fish is another animal containing terotodoxin in common with a horseshoe crab. Puffer fish is known as “fugu” in Japan. It is a very celebrated dish in Japan even though it is notoriously known for being lethally poisonous because of its tetrodotoxin content. In a dish known as “Tessa” or “Fugu sashimi”, the fish is sliced thinly and arranged according to the pattern of petals of a chrysanthemum on a plate.

In Japan, chefs have to go through strict training and qualification test to earn their license for preparing and selling fugu to the general public. In general, it is said to be pretty safe to eat puffer fishes in restaurants in Japan. However, a friend told me before that the expert chefs will leave just a tiny bit of tetrodotoxin in the fish to give diners the tingling sensation on the lips. Every man varies in their ability or threshold to withstand the toxic effect of the poison. As such, I would choose not to risk my health by taking this type of risky food, just to ensure myself a happy vacation. Other than Japan, eating puffer fish is a definitely “NO”.

With this, wish you a trip full of bliss and happiness during your travel.

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