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As a section about Fugu fish in the "Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods" article on the Time magazine website suggests

The toxin is so potent that a lethal dose is smaller than the head of a pin, and a single fish has enough poison to kill 30 people.

but on a wikipedia page about Fugu we can see an article claiming that

Poison concentrations vary from fish to fish, so poisoning may not always lead to death, instead giving little more than numbness on the lips and tongue while eating and shortly thereafter.

So basically the question is, is it actually possible that Fugu fish which sometimes has just enough poison to numb ones lips and tongue can also have enough poison to kill 30 people?

  • 2
    While not terribly clear on wikipedia, I believe this refers (or at least should refer) to the fish product after preparation rather than before. – Chad Mar 14 '12 at 13:04
  • I agree with @Chad: I think the idea is that if Fogu is not well prepared the resulting poisoning level may vary depending on how much of the poison is left. – nico Mar 14 '12 at 13:13
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Could be, if you had a big pufferfish, ignored safety and regulation, and ate the most toxic parts.

According to Toxins of Pufferfish that Cause Human Intoxications (Arakawa et al)

[The] minimum lethal dose (MLD) for humans is estimated to be approximately 10000 MU (≈2 mg)

(til they measure toxicity in "Mouse Units"). And,

In general, viscera, especially the liver and ovary are highly toxic (the toxicity often exceeds 1,000 MU/g), and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare has prohibited these organs from being used for food from all species of pufferfish.

So you're talking about 10g per person x 30 ~= 300 grams of viscera

Toxicity varies between species and while some species such as Takifugu niphobles are small, others like Takifugu oblongus can grow to 40cm. T. oblongus is called out in the Arakawa paper as "highly toxic."

Throw one in the blender and share it on the bus and things could get ugly.

  • I doubt you are going to get many takers to drink raw fish smoothie on your average bus. So I dont think the problem is as serious as you seem to suggest... Now force feed it to that same bus then sure there would be a problem. :) – Chad Mar 15 '12 at 13:05
  • Well, maybe not on your posh, impersonal city bus, but out in the country, where people still have manners... ;-) True story: I was once on a bus where someone was eating a durian en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durian – Larry OBrien Mar 15 '12 at 17:29
  • Never heard of MU. The normal unit for measuring lethality so far is definitely LD50, the dose which kills 50% of individuals of a population (usually in rats). Searching for “mouse units” doesn’t turn up a whole lot, and most mentions refer to something else. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 15 '12 at 22:00
  • Arakawa: "The lethal potency is 5000 to 6000 MU/mg [1 MU (mouse unit) is defined as the amount of toxin required to kill a 20-g male mouse within 30 min after intraperitoneal administration], and the minimum lethal dose (MLD) for humans is estimated to be approximately 10000 MU (≈2 mg) (Noguchi and Ebesu, 2001)." Odd choice of unit, but it's in there. – FlyingSquidwithGoggles Mar 16 '12 at 13:44

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