By Amanda Slavinsky from Farsickness.
Trying new food is a huge part of traveling and an important way to learn about new cultures. But while most foods are perfectly safe, there are a few around the world that can cause pretty grim medical problems or even death. Here are ten foods you might want to stay away from the next time you’re on the road.
This root, also called yuca in Latin American countries and known as tapioca in the United States, is one of the biggest sources of carbohydrates in the world, especially in developing countries. But if eaten raw or prepared incorrectly, there can be traces of cyanide, a popular ingredient for suicide pills, which can obviously be quite dangerous or even (surprise, surprise) deadly!
Hakarl is shark that is fermented and then hung to dry for several months. This dish is very common in Iceland, and is sometimes considered the national dish, even though it can be fatal. The species of shark used to make hakarl has no kidneys and so nothing to purify its waste. The meat is full of trimethylamine oxide, which makes is lethal if eaten immediately after being killed.
Sannakji is a Korean delicacy made by cutting an octopus into small pieces while it is still live. The pieces, still squirming around on the plate, are then covered with sesame seeds and sesame oil. Chew carefully and thoroughly, though, as the creature’s suction cups are still active and could hold on to your throat and choke you to death.
4. Blood Clams
These clams, which get their name from looking like they are covered in blood, are host to a variety of bacteria and viruses. Popular in Shanghai, if blood clams aren’t boiled for long enough they can cause hepatitis, dysentery, or typhoid.
Fugu, Japanese pufferfish, is arguably the world’s most famous dangerous food. A deadly poison called tetrodotoxin is found in the ovaries, intestines, and liver of the fugu, and if prepared incorrectly the effects are disastrous as a single fish contains enough poison to kill 30 people.
6. Casu Marzu
This sheep’s milk cheese, made in Sardinia, Italy, is crawling with live insect larvae. Introduced to help ferment the cheese, the larvae can cause intestinal lesions as well as pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. It shouldn’t be hard to avoid this, though, as Casu Marzu is illegal in the EU.
7. Monkey Brains
Though not as common as some of the other food on this list, eating monkey brains could cause serious damage to your own cranial stuff. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, better known as Mad Cow Disease, is present in some monkeys. This disease causes dementia, neurological deterioration, and, eventually, death. Stay away from the monkeys next time you’re in Asia.
You’ve probably seen rhubarb in one of your granny’s pies and thought of it as perfectly safe. Well, you’re not entirely right. While the stems won’t cause you any health problems, the leaves of rhubarb contain oxalic acid which, at high levels, can be lethal to humans.
9. Giant Bullfrog
Thought of as a delicacy in Namibia, the skin and organs of giant bull frogs contain a large amount of toxins which can cause kidney failure. Though Namibians consider them safe to eat after mating seasons and the “third rain”, it might be smart to stay away entirely.
10. Castor Beans
Castor oil is known to be a cure all for many ailments, but the bean has the complete opposite effect. Castor beans contain ricin, one of the deadliest poisons on earth, and if chewed and swallowed can be deadly. The death isn’t quick either. Most victims are subjected to at least a week of sickness and suffering before finally kicking the bucket (see Breaking Bad for details).
Obviously you don’t have to discover only the deadliest foods on your travels, there’s plenty of food that’s both safe and – would you believe it – really, incredibly, unbelievably nice! So whether it’s Italy, France or Hong Kong, why not book yourself a hostel at one of the worlds food meccas?
Tried any of these deadly dishes or anything that didn’t appear on the list? Share your stories in the comments…
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Thanks to Sue Salisbury, Funky Tee, VN014_Mussels, tsuda, Scott, Kari Sullivan, Alpha, Daniel X. O’Neil and Coshipi for the excellent photos off Flickr and Shardan for their brilliant offering off Wikimedia. Please note all were published under creative commons license at time of publishing.