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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

What to do with Fugu? Should it be treated like sprouts and raw milk?

The FDA and a variety of states limit the sale of raw milk and raw milk cheese due to bacterial health risks. Other foods, like sprouts, hamburger, cookie dough, etc., on the other hand sicken and/or kill hundreds if not thousands yearly with not nearly the governmental oversight. My “friends” in the raw milk movement scream (they seem only have that one volume) or make snarky comments (I think it has something to do with consuming raw milk probiotics), that the FDA is in the pocket of big business, or that one trial lawyer in Seattle is a food Nazi, but what does the FDA do with food that is unquestionably risky?

Take the lowly, and quite ugly, puffer fish, or Fugu. Apparently, according to the FDA, tetrodotoxin poisoning results from the ingestion of edible portions of the puffer fish, which may become contaminated from the poisonous excised tissue during processing, or from the transfer of the toxin from poisonous parts as a result of improper freezing and gradual hawing of unprocessed puffer fish. There is a 50% fatality rate among those who ingest tetrodotoxin (TTX). The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing.

So, what does the FDA do?

The FDA may detain, without physical examination, all shipments of Puffer Fish, Globe Fish, Swell Fish, Fugu, or other members of the order Tetradontiformes. However, there is an agreement between FDA and the government of Japan, which permits the importation of the species Tora (Tiger) Fugu (fugu rubripes rubripes) for consumption in the United States. With this agreement, the puffer fish are:

a) processed and prepared, so that they are “ready” for consumption, by the Fugu Fish Market in the city of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, which handles over 80% of the total Fugu consumption in Japan, and whose processing factories are manned by specialists licensed by the Government as special Fugu Chefs;

b) shipped certified by the Department of Health of the City of Shiminoseki, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, as legally processed in an authorized processing factory. These shipments of puffer fish from Japan are allowed entry into the United States through JFK International Airport. These puffer fish are brought into the United States no more than two or three times a year, between September and March.

Hmm, dangerous products being regulated?  Where have I heard that before?  Damn, those food Nazis.  But, shouldn’t foods that bear some (or alot) of risk be treated the same?

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Such a tough delemna. With limited resources how does the FDA regulate all foods? The idea of just focusing on high risk, high volume scares me because my son was poisoned by packaged peanut butter crackers. I seriously do not think this product was deemed a high risk product yet one if its associated products killed 9 people. With this said, I hope that all food is deemed important to be produced in the most safe manner and documented manner as possible. Thanks to technology it shouldn’t be an impossible task. Perhaps as part of food labeling laws, all labels should have a risk of piosonous pathogen symbol on it. Puffer fish would then have the Mr. Yuck sticker — along with Raw milk — along with Sprouts.

  • Bill Anderson

    Here’s a novel thought, Bill.
    Japanese chefs have to pass rigerous training and examination before they are allowed to prepare Fugu.
    The state of Wisconsin requires cheese makers to undergo a rigerous training and examination before they are allowed to produce cheese. We are the only state in the U.S. to require this.
    Why is it that you can only find one outbreak from raw milk CHEESE in Wisconsin, and that it was from a homemade cheese (not from a licensed WI cheese maker)? Perhaps it is because the competancy of the operator is more important to food safety than the zealousness of prosecution against percieved offenders.

  • My point exactly. Producing safe food is hard work and requires facts, not beliefs.

  • Dog Doctor

    Mr. Anderson, “Perhaps it is because the competency of the operator is more important to food safety than the zealousness of prosecution against perceived offenders.” The only way an operator can be sued is if they make people sick, it doesn’t matter how zealous a “prosecutor” is or a lawyer is, there has to be evidence linking the food with the illness. Evidence including laboratory finding including microbiology including culture, ELIZA(antigen, antibody detection), PCR (DNA testing), and PFGE (DNA testing), immunologic serology the presense of Immuno globin M (recent information), and Immuno globin G( more chronic information and immunization), Epidemiologic investigation including environmental investigation, food history, food surveys, Please see several training sites for information on how to conduct a food investigation from CDC, University of North Carolina, and number of state health departments. The World Health Organization also has a manual and training. I realize that you don’t trust any of these organizations since they don’t wholeheartedly and blindly endorse raw milk as you do. You may want to use Google scholar to find a source of information that you do trust. Back to your zealot point, in our judicial system for a civil case you have to convince a judge and or juries with a proponderous of the evidence. i.e. more good science than junk science for a finding or in the criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt and that is 12 people, so despite all you comments to the contrary Mr. Anderson we still live in a democratic republic with an amazing amount of freedom. If you don’t believe it go aboard and try some of your comments against local governments or take a check list made from the bill of rights and see how many of them you have in other countries.
    So the bottom line Mr. Anderson, please stop your “zealous” personal prosecution of Mr. Marler. If you want to discuss probiotics, sanitation issues, or other food safety issue, let discuss it. The fact you find it inconvenient that Mr. Marler represents those that are injured by food producers both large (Con Agra) and small that is tough, and the simple way to avoid him is make sure you don’t make people sick not that hard to do, Many tens of thousands of faculties do that every year in America from the local restaurant and grocery stores to large chains. Big or small it doesn’t make a difference both can make safe food and both can make unsafe food. Unfortunately when the big ones mess up hundreds to thousands get sick including pasteurized milk but these are rare fortunately and most companies learn from these mistakes and improve. It seems the raw milk folks still let shit fall into buckets or fail in some other basic principles when there is an outbreak.

  • Bill Anderson

    “The only way an operator can be sued is if they make people sick”
    I can cite many examples of raw milk producers who have never made anyone sick, but are zealously prosecuted merely because they sell and distribute raw milk, or process it into products such as butter.
    It has nothing to do with food safety. It has to do with protectionism of the dairy processing industry.

  • Bill, were those raw milk producers selling and distributing raw milk legally when they were prosecuted? Did their raw milk test positive for any pathogen?

  • Bill Anderson

    Were they distributing it legally? It depends who you ask. Are the owners of a herd of cow entitiled to the milk those cows produce? If you ask the so-called “food safety” thugs at WI DATCP, the answer is no. If you ask most people including many legislators and attorneys, the answer is yes. Still no word from a judge on the cases. There are several lawsuits pending over it.
    Did the milk test positive for any pathogen? No, to my knowledge there i not one sample of raw milk from one of these Wisconsin producers that has ever tested positive for pathogen. There was one outbreak in August 2009, from one farm which admitedly had bad practices. Yet the relentless prosecution and raids continue against other producers who have never made anyone sick.
    I believe this is what is refered to as collective punishment — punish everyone for the offenses of a few. It was the same tactic used by apartheidist in South Africa and today in Gaza and the West Bank.
    Once again, I will repeat: This debate about raw milk has absolutely nothing to do with food safety. We have the tools neccssary to verify the safety of raw milk, and have had those tools for many decades. This has to do with protectionism of the dairy processing industry. “Food safety” is simply the guise which they use to justify this protectionist racket.