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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just in Time for Halloween: The World's Deadliest Foods

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 5:12 PM

Think last night's burrito made you sick? Even the worst food poisoning from the grubbiest taqueria is nothing compared to what might happen if you chow down on these really deadly foods.

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8. Fugu
Eating fugu, or Japanese pufferfish, is always a life-or-death gamble. Considered a delicacy, the rather cute little critter contains a poison called tetrodotoxin that's anything but cuddly -- it's 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide! Not everyone who eats the stuff dies, though approximately 100 fugu-eaters do keel over every year. The risk is all in the preparation. A good fugu chef knows how to prepare the fish so it's a benign and tasty treat. But how do you know there isn't some hack behind the sushi bar?

7. Chocolate
Okay, so theobromine (an alkaloid found in chocolate) is usually only toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and parrots, but cram enough Hershey bars and you might find yourself throwing up, experiencing a heart attack, or seizing. Note: You would have to down a disgustingly large amount of chocolate to do this.

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6. Giant Namibian Bullfrog
Fancy bullfrog for dinner? Be careful. This Namibian delicacy is dangerous due to the poisonous secretions contained within the bullfrog's skin. Eat the skin, and risk kidney failure or death. Frog lovers skirt the problem by lining the cooking pot with wood that absorbs the poison.

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5. Casu Marzu
This Sardinian sheep's milk cheese is hard to track down -- it's banned in the E.U., but can be found on the Sardinian black market. Think twice before munching, though. The cheese is made with the help of thousands of maggots, which stick around long after casu marzu is ready to eat. There's no danger when the maggots are alive (except, perhaps, as inducers of serious gacking), but dead ones can cause intestinal larval infection.

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4. Cassava
How dangerous can a soft-boiled root be? Pretty damn dangerous, as it turns out. If it isn't cooked properly, this popular food from Guyana turns into cyanide in the human body. Bitter cassava is the most dangerous, but even sweet cassava packs enough cyanide punch to flatten a cow.
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3. Ackee
If ackee is prepared improperly, alkaloid toxins in the inner red tissue of the fruit can cause vomiting, seizures, and deadly hypoglycemia. Unripe ackee is also risky enough that the U.S. has banned its importation from Jamaica, where the fruit is a popular export. Canned ackee, however, is on store shelves everywhere.

2. Peanuts
Chances are you know someone with a peanut allergy, one of the deadliest out there. But even nonallergic peanut eaters face dangers. Goobers from disreputable sources can contain dangerous amounts of aflatoxin, a mold-derived toxin 20 times more deadly than DDT. The FDA tests peanuts to make sure they're free of the stuff, but beware of eating peanuts in countries where health regulations aren't so strict.

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1. Inky Cap Mushrooms
Eat inky cap mushrooms to your heart's content, but think twice before washing them down with a glass of Chianti. When mixed with alcohol -- or even consumed in the same room as alcohol-based perfume -- this mushroom will make you seriously sick to your stomach. Nevertheless, the inky cap mushroom is pretty much irresistible in soups and sauces -- but for god's sake, leave the Axe body spray in another room.

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Ariel Schwartz


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