Two people died and 34 have been hospitalized in Takeo province after eating what is believed to have been poisonous puffer fish, officials said Sunday.
A 15-year-old boy from Traing district’s Tralach commune died Thursday and a 24-year-old man from Kiri Vong district’s Phnom Den commune died Friday, said Kim Sarith, head of the provincial fisheries office.
The suspected puffer fish had been on the market in the districts of Traing, Tram Kak and especially Kiri Vong since Tuesday, Kim Sarith said, adding that authorities have now confiscated around 700 kg of suspect fish from markets and dealers.
Those who fell sick suffered several symptoms include dizziness, numbness of the mouth and tongue and breathing difficulties as well as diarrhea and vomiting, he said.
“Puffer fish are toxic. Those villagers are poor. They bought [the fish] at a cheap price,” he said.
Takeo provincial Governor Srey Ben said he has instructed district and commune officials to alert villagers to be wary of puffer fish.
Ministry of Health Secretary of State Mam Bunheng said that blood samples from the sick and samples of the suspected fish were sent for analysis at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh.
Krui Sumlai, the institute’s deputy director, said the samples may have to be sent abroad for testing.
Yano Toshiyuki, owner and head chef at Mr Sushi restaurant in Phnom Penh, said that all the organs must be removed from a puffer fish before it is eaten.
“Even if heated, it’s still poison,” he said Sunday.
In Japan, organs taken out of puffer fish are locked in cans before being removed from restaurants to prevent accidental poisoning of dogs or poor people who might inadvertently eat them, said Toshiyuki, who has been working with sushi for two decades.