Food is essential to living. However, there are deadly foods that you want to avoid. They may not look dangerous. Verily, some of these meals are known to be delicious, but they are bad for you.
In a world where information is easily accessible, it is important to know deadly foods that are sometimes life-threatening. In other words, not all delicious-looking foods are edible. You must make some research before trying an interesting delicacy.
As part of an awareness campaign to safeguard our health, Skabash! presents the top 10 deadly foods in the world. But first, let us define deadly food.
What is a deadly food?
Deadly food is contaminated, spoilt or toxic food that is bad for your health. It ranges from undercooked to improperly prepared or handled food. Some people are allergic to certain food but eat them anyway, leading to serious health issues.
A portion of deadly food is also known as food poisoning. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 600 million people fall ill every year after eating contaminated food and this results in 420,000 deaths.
Top 10 deadly foods in the world
You are probably shocked that the cassava, which you use to process your favourite fufu and garri, is deadly. Cassava, also known as manioc, is a perennial woody shrub with an edible root, which grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is often processed into a staple ingredient in African, Latin American and Caribbean cuisines.
However, raw cassava contains cyanide, a potent poison that can kill. So, it is vital to prepare cassava correctly. Meanwhile, cassava has two types – sweet and bitter. Bitter cassava is harder but has a much higher cyanide content and needs to be processed more thoroughly by grating, soaking and cooking to reduce the cyanide levels. Sweet cassava only needs to be cooked to be safe.
Almonds are known to have several health benefits. They are high in antioxidants, vitamin E, protein, and fibre, making them the perfect addition to any diet. However, Almonds can be quite deadly if they are eaten raw. Raw almonds, also known as bitter almonds, have a high concentration of poisonous cyanide. If eaten, it can pose a serious threat to a person’s life. As a result, almonds have to go through a specialised heat treatment to get rid of the toxins so the fruit can be edible.
8. Red kidney beans
Kidney beans are part of the major source of protein throughout the world. The legume is native to Central America and Mexico and can be used to prepare a variety of dishes. In Nigeria, kidney beans are mostly used to prepare a salad and it is delicious.
However, this food is deadly as it contains phytohaemagglutinin, a toxin that can damage the gut wall and may prevent it from absorbing nutrients properly. Symptoms of poisoning include may include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting and headaches. Dried red kidney beans have to be prepared right and that includes soaking for some hours and boiling for at least 10 minutes to get rid of the toxins.
Elderberry is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world, mostly for cold and flu symptoms. Elderberries are used to make jams, pies, wines, teas, syrups and supplements. They are safe to eat if they are fully ripe and properly cooked. However, the leaves, twigs and seeds contain potentially fatal levels of cyanide-producing glycoside (‘cyanogenic glycoside’).
If large quantities are consumed, glycoside may cause seizures, coma or even death. A simple drop of improperly prepared elderberry in your food can cause serious health problems.
Wikipedia describes a rhubarb as the fleshy, edible stalks (petioles) of species and hybrids (culinary rhubarb) of Rheum in the family Polygonaceae. They are cooked and used for food such as to prepare jams and pies. However, Rhubarb contains oxalic acid which can be found in the leaves.
Hence, consuming too much oxalic acid can be fatal, though one would have to eat large quantities of rhubarb leaves to die. Even eating the leaves in small doses can leave you with serious symptoms like a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, nausea, diarrhoea, eye pain, difficulty breathing and red urine.
In addition, oxalic acids can cause kidney stones (hard deposits of minerals and acid salts that stick together in concentrated urine), which are known for causing severe pain, cloudy, red or foul-smelling urine, fever and chills.
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5. Casu Marzu
The description of this food will put you off. Casu Marzu is a traditional Sardinian cheese that is extra-fermented by live maggots that partially decompose the cheese. Still, want to try one? I do not think so. So does the United States of America which, as the acclaimed leader of the free world, has banned the delicacy for sanitary/hygienic reasons.
Hákarl is a Greenland shark meat that is cured and hung to dry for between three and five months. In a traditional Icelandic dish, the preparation process is necessary to neutralise the high levels of urea and trimethylamine oxide in the shark’s flesh. Greenland sharks do not have a urinary tract, so waste and toxins are filtered through their skin and flesh.
Therefore, the mixture of compounds acts as a natural antifreeze that protects it from the frigid arctic waters. But the chemicals are so concentrated that just a few bites of uncured fresh meat are enough to cause severe symptoms. They include intestinal distress, neurological effects, convulsions and even death.
Sannakji is a Korean dish made from live baby octopus tentacles that are cut into pieces, seasoned and served immediately. Some culinary adventurers dare to even eat the tentacles while they are still alive and wiggling. This is very dangerous as the tentacles can stick to the mouth and throat and cause the customer to choke to death.
According to Food & Wine, six people choke and die from eating (or attempting to eat) sannakji every year. To safely eat sannakji, you need suction pads to chew the tentacles of the baby octopus.
2. Ackee fruit
Ackee fruit is the national pride of Jamaica. It is a delicious but dangerous fruit. The unripe fruit contains a poison called hypoglycin, which can cause serious illness (dubbed the ‘Jamaican Vomiting Sickness’). It can also lead to coma or death. Therefore, it is important to allow the fruit to be ripe before eating it. Also, avoid opening an ackee fruit yourself (it must open on its own) and only eat the cream-coloured, fleshy pulp around the seeds.
Do not eat any of the pink flesh or the black seeds because they are highly toxic.
Fugu is the world’s deadliest food, according to the Independent. Also known as pufferfish, it is a notorious Japanese dish that is known to kill culinary daredevils. Fugu’s ovaries, intestines and liver contain tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin up to 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide.
A single Fugu has enough poison to kill 30 people. If not properly prepared, fugu can paralyze motor nerves and cause fatal respiratory arrest. Japanese chefs who specialise in fugu have to go through years of training to master the dish and must obtain a license. Despite these precautions, people still die every year from eating fugu.