Five men fall ill in Wakayama after eating fugu, including requested liver


Five men became sick after eating poisonous fugu, a Wakayama health official said Tuesday, the latest victims of a delicacy seen as sophisticated by fans and crazy by others.

The men, all in their 40s and 50s, dined at a restaurant in the city of Wakayama on Friday night.

They fell ill early Saturday, experiencing breathing difficulties and vomiting, the city health official said.

“They consumed a dinner that included liver, which is regarded as toxic material,” she said, reading from a statement.

The city shut down the establishment for five days starting Sunday, she said.

Calls to the restaurant went unanswered.

The restaurant served the banned, poisonous parts at the request of the diners, the official said.

The livers, ovaries and skin, among other parts, of fugu — also known as puffer fish or blowfish — contain toxins powerful enough to kill an adult in the worst-case scenario.

Aficionados say the tingle that the organs leave on the diner’s lips — caused by the potent neurotoxin they contain — is part of the appeal.

Every year in Japan, several people are hospitalized after eating fugu.

To get a license to serve the fish, restaurant chefs must train for years to pass a stringent exam, which includes written and practical tests on how to distinguish poisonous parts from others.

Strict regulations are often credited with the low level of fatalities.