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Fishmongers in Malaysia sell toxic pufferfish

PETALING JAYA: Fishmongers and fishing trawler operators in Malaysia are taking advantage of rising fish prices to push pufferfish fillets into markets.

They are sold as "crystal fish" for between RM18 (S$6) and RM20 a kilogramme, The Star reported.

Pufferfish is poisonous as it contains tetrodotoxin, a substance toxic enough to kill a person in a few hours.

But it is edible. The trick is removing the poisonous parts without contaminating the rest of the fish.

In Penang, Kedah and Perak, pufferfish fillets are used by seafood porridge and bee hoon soup haw­kers as "fried fish meat". A source said pufferfish could be half the price of alternatives. Hawkers earlier used Spanish mackerel (tenggiri) and grouper fillets, but prices have surged "over the last two years".

A source told The Star that foreign labourers with little experience in gutting the fish were employed to slice the fish.

The Malaysian Health Ministry is coming up with a regulation making the sale of pufferfish illegal unless toxins have been removed by "qualified persons". Those found guilty can be fined RM10,000, or jailed for two years.

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