China legalizes eating a pufferfish bred to be nonpoisonous


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So they have a restaurant that until recently was illegally serving their namesake food. Won’t be long until they catch up with the US.


I thought it wasn’t the flavor of the fish, but the danger of playing Russian roulette with your life that was the appeal?


Where’s the fun in that?


Wait. I was under the impression that pufferfish didn’t produce tetrodotoxin themselves, but ingested the bacteria that produce it.

In which case “bred to be nonpoisonous” seems to be a misnomer; wouldn’t “raised to be nonpoisonous” be more appropriate?

ETA: I’m more confused after reading the post.

they feed on little shrimps and crustaceans which have green algae on them. The puffer’s [internal systems] will turn the algae into a neurotoxin which can kill humans in an instant. So wild pufferfish are very dangerous. “In our fisheries, we don’t let the fish come into contact with those creatures [carrying algae].

That seems to imply that they don’t ingest tetrodotoxin (or TTX-producing organisms) proper, but a precursor, which the fish themselves make toxic.

But then:

Fish with poison-generating DNA are bred out generation after generation. So the pufferfish produced in China’s fisheries cannot generate poison any more

If they make the toxin from an element that only exists in wild foodchains (and which purportedly isn’t present at this fishery) then isn’t that the beginning and end of things? Why breed out this supposed conversion DNA, if they lack access to the precursor chemical?


No so much the danger as the buzz. Done properly there is a non lethal dose and you get a high from it.


Weird. I presume it is a well known restaurant, someone mustve been looking the other way




Right. They bioaccumulate the tetrodotoxin from their diet. Different species bioaccumulate it at different rates. And the bacteria don’t exist in every waterway. Colder waters in particular tend not to have much if any.

There are plenty of species and fisheries that are perfectly safe to eat. And even as far as Fugu, which is pretty fucking dangerous. Safe farmed fish have been available for years. All it takes is raising them where there isn’t any tetrodotoxin. So while it’s possible these guys have bred fish that don’t bioaccumulate. They’re probably just raising a different species or hybrids and/or raising them in safe waters.

Having eaten a lot of non toxic puffer fish. A whole lot. It’s delicious. It’s a mild, flakey white fish, but it has a firmer texture and a more savory/umami element to it than most fish of that sort. And it’s got a sticky collegen texture that’s uncommon in fish especially if you cook it on the bone. It’s kind of like mild porgy/scup.

It’s kind of a local, in the know delicacy here in the North East. And a personal favorite.


Can they guarantee that sometime in the future the gene responsible for the poison doesn’t reappear as a mutation, and kill some diners?


Yes. That’s not how genes work. (Unless the harmless ones somehow interbreed with the deadly ones, which can’t really happen in a fish farm.)


Isn’t mouth-numbing part of the experience of eating pufferfish?



Perhaps I stated my question wrong, I was under the impression they had “bred out” the poison the same way Russian scientists bred tame foxes-- through generations of selection. So the gene might be dormant or recessive and perhaps reappear in one or two animals in the future.

Nevertheless, the poison seems to come from an algae the fish eats, so then how many of us really think they will manage to keep that algae away from every fish when they build huge factory farms to satisfy their huge customer base?

I’m just saying: the danger is still there, but probably minimized more, at least for now.


I do not try to understand Chinese science news anymore. There is always something lost in translation and the result is confusion.


Caption: “I’ve puffed myself up to a frightful size!!, so this schmuck should be putting me back down very soon… very soon now… still waiting…hey! anybody got the time?”


You may be right, and I shouldn’t have been so flippant. I’m hardly an expert.


That and getting mildly high from the poison.

(I am told weed is crazy expensive there…)


Apparently its a pretty key thing, at least in Korea and Japan. And its a big reason why non-toxic fish hasn’t caught on in Asia.

Which is good for me. Puffers come into season in a few weeks. And so much of our local fish just gets shipped off to Asia to sell at a premium. I live right near a major Atlantic tuna fishery. You know how many times I’ve had fresh, local, Atlantic tuna?


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