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Risk Vs. Reward: Top 10 Expensive Foods That Can Kill You

Food, High Life
Risk Vs. Reward: Top 10 Expensive Foods That Can Kill You

Most of us have heard the expression, “champagne taste on a beer budget”, hinting at the fact that pricier items simply taste better. In many cases, there is some truth to this adage. The rarer a food is, the more it will cost. People often assume the costlier food is much tastier that average priced food.

The past decade has brought a cultural trend of people becoming “foodies”. We are living in an age of food. Cooking shows have taken off tremendously in the past several years, and cookbooks are topping best-seller lists. Of course, people have always enjoyed a good meal. Food as a trend has started its own cultural phenomenon, and is plastered all over television with hit shows like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. The entire Western World is finding itself mesmerized and transfixed by foods that push limits and boundaries. Tasting fusion foods, food trucks, gourmet cupcakes, and exotic dishes make a person seemingly more cultured and worldly, lending credibility to foodies. Often times, the more expensive the food, the more revered it is in the minds of consumers. Of course, people need to eat to live. But sometimes, the luxury of indulging in some of the most expensive foods in the world comes at quite an unhealthy or potentially deadly price. Some of the most highly coveted foods can be extremely expensive as well as dangerous if not handled properly. Here are ten of the most expensive but potentially dangerous foods in the world.

10. Bluefin Tuna: $40- $75 per serving

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The large ocean-dwelling fish are prized for Japanese sushi and sashimi. Boasting a delicate flavor yet meaty flavor, blue fin tuna are some of the most prized catches of fish for consumption. In January of 2013, a large blue fin tuna caught off the coast of Japan sold for a record price of $1.76 million dollars, making it one of the most expensive food items ever purchased in the world throughout the course of history. While this particular sale was certainly extraordinary, bluefin tuna dishes often sell for $40-$75 for a 3-4 ounce portion of the fish. Although the fish is largely coveted by lovers of Japanese cuisine, the bluefin tuna is potentially dangerous. A recent study performed by Stanford University found that every single blue fin tuna contained radiation in fairly large amounts, making bluefin tuna radioactive. The radioactive fish is a result of the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown that occurred in March of 2011. The radiation consumed in blue fin tuna can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding, as well as cell death. It is difficult to determine how many people are hospitalized each year as a result of radiation poisoning from radioactive fish because radiation poisoning is cumulative. However, it has been noted that the amounts of radiation found in the delicacy are enough to sicken and potentially kill those who consume enough of the fish to create toxic radiation levels within their systems.

9. Chocopologie: $2,600 per pound

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Chocolate is considered one of the most decadent foods in the world. Unsweetened chocolate contains cocoa solids. Some of the most sought after chocolate comes from Valrhona cacao, which is considered a French luxury item. The cacao is produced in a remote French village, and is highly sought after by chocolate lovers. Chocopologie is a chocolate confection which consists of 70% Valhrona cacao, and is sold for $2,600 per pound. The decadent chocolates are produced by Fritz Knipschildt and are considered the most expensive chocolates from across the globe. While some experts and raw foodists claim that raw cacao is equivalent to a food of the gods, research suggests that raw cacao is a harmful, addictive stimulant. The Chocopologie, which contains high levels of raw cacao, has the potential to dangerously increase heart rate in people ( also toxic for animals) who have existing heart problems.  It is also considered highly addictive, and long-term consumption of chocolate, particularly the Chocopologie truffles, can actually result in liver damage and failure. Theobromine is considered the toxic substance in chocolate, and it has been known to poison people, particularly the young and the elderly, and results in hundreds of hospitalizations each year, giving the term “death by chocolate” a whole new meaning.

8. Casu Marzu Cheese: $40 per pound

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In areas where it can be purchased legally, a pound of casu marzu cheese can be purchased for about twice the price of a pound of pecorino, which would equal around $40 dollars per pound in the United States. However, the cheese is illegal in many regions of the world including the United States. The reason it cannot be purchased legally in many regions of the world, however, is what makes this cheese so unique as well as so expensive to die-hard cheese lovers. This particular cheese begins as a regular block of pecorino. However, it is left out in the elements where flies are encouraged to land on it and lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, the maggots eat the cheese, partially digest it, and excrete the rest, changing the texture and the flavor of the cheese. It is usually eaten with the larvae still alive inside the cheese, which can very easily not just turn the stomach at the mere idea but has the very real potential of causing serious illness. The legality of the maggot cheese is what makes it so expensive in parts of the world, selling on the black market for upwards of $500 dollars per pound.

7. Fugu Puffer Fish: $200 per serving

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The puffer fish is considered a delicacy in Japan, and very few chefs are certified to be able to serve the fish. The reason? The chefs must complete extensive training lasting approximately two years, pass a written exam, then prepare and eat a puffer fish without dying. Literally. The puffer fish contains a neurotoxin, and it must be prepared very carefully without puncturing any of the organs. Even still, people pay upwards of $200 for a serving of Fugu puffer fish in order to feel some of the effects of the poison. The fish is delicately cleaned, and served raw in paper thin slices. In small amounts, people claim a “high” feeling as a result of eating the fish, leaving many people wanting to try the potentially fatal fish. In fact, as many as 200 people per year are extremely sickened by eating the flesh of the puffer fish, with as many as half of them dying as a result.

6. Matsutake Mushroom: $2,000 per pound

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These Japanese mushrooms are said to have a bold flavor, tasting much of the pine trees upon which they grow. They are extremely popular in all types of cuisine and make an excellent Tempura. Mushroom lovers who relish the unmasked taste of the rare fungi enjoy their shrooms in soups, as side dishes, or as main courses. They are exceptionally rare, however, and as a result can cost upwards of $2,000 per pound. While the matsutake mushroom itself is not dangerous, it bears a striking resemblance other highly toxic mushroom. Inexperienced mushroom hunters have gathered what they thought were the highly coveted matsutake mushrooms, only to collect and consume poisonous mushrooms. The high price and demand for these mushrooms will drive the most inexperienced mushroom seekers into the woods to harvest the fungi, and purchasing them from a street vendor who may or may not have collected them with the right knowledge could be a potentially fatal mistake.

5. Foie Gras Hot Dog: $69 per hot dog

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The delicacy is a pate made from duck or goose liver, and is considered a delicacy all over the world. Only the fattiest duck or goose livers are used to make foie gras, making it a rare commodity. Serendipity, a famous New York eatery, takes foie gras to a new level by creating a duck sausage hot dog topped with Foies gras and truffle oil and encased in a homemade pretzel bun. The aptly named “haute dog” with foies gras sells for $69, and is the most expensive hot dog in the world.  In recent years, the delicacy has gotten some attention from animal rights activists, as ducks and geese are often force fed to produce fatty liver deposits suitable enough to be used for the pate. Still, many people enjoy the extremely fatty dish as a decadent indulgence, and are willing to pay on average about $100 per pound. Many doctors warn of the potential health risks of eating foie gras, resulting in a secondary form of the system disease known as amyloidosis. The disease causes a buildup of animal proteins throughout the body and can result in heart disease, kidney and liver disease, as well as gastrointestinal problems.

4. Raw Oysters: $100 for a dozen

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Raw oysters are considered quite a delectable delicacy. They are easy to eat and taste like the ocean. In many areas, oysters can be quite inexpensive, however in upscale restaurants oysters can cost around $100 for a dozen.  Raw oysters have long been considered an aphrodisiac, making them a popular menu selection at romantic, high end restaurants. However, there are some health concerns associated with consuming raw oysters which can sicken or potentially kill those who consume them. Some oysters contain a bacteria known as vibrio vulnificus. The bacteria are mainly harmful to people with weakened immune systems, however anybody can be sickened by the bacteria. People who suffer from gout are also warned to avoid the fresh shellfish, as the purines contained in fresh, raw oysters can cause uric acid levels to spike.

3. Jamon Iberico de Bellota: $500 per kilogram

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This is a type of Spanish cured ham. The pigs are known for their black hooves, and subsist on a diet of acorns. The resulting meat has a sweet, nutty flavor and is smoother due to greater intramuscular fat. The price of a pound of the Spanish ham is upwards of $500 per kilogram. While the ham is not always harmful, cured meats can pose certain health risks to people with compromised immune systems, as well as to women who are pregnant or nursing. Bacteria can settle on meat during the curing process, and only heating the meat can kill the offending bacteria, which is usually not done when serving the Spanish cured ham.

2. Moose milk cheese: $500 per pound

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Another cheese on the list of potentially dangerous but highly expensive foods comes from the milk of moose. Not only is it difficult to milk a moose, but the milk is only available during certain times of the year. While consumers of moose milk cheese say it is a smooth, silky, soft cheese that is easy to eat, it can be potentially dangerous if made from raw moose milk. Fetching around $500 per pound, moose milk cheese (as well as any other cheese from raw milk), can easily become contaminated with e. coli, a potentially deadly bacterial infection.

1. Elvers: $6000 per kilogram in Japanese fish markets

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It sounds like something that lives at the North Pole, but elvers are a type of baby eel. Elvers swim about 5000 miles to the coast of Europe, elvers have been known to fetch around $6000 per kilogram in Japanese fish markets. The very young eels are considered quite tasty when properly prepared, but the blood of the elvers is poisonous and can be deadly if not cooked thoroughly. Elvers are on this list because they are quite an expensive meal, we do not agree with consuming them we are simply stating that they are a very dangerous delicacy in certain parts of the world.

It would seem that sometimes high-priced food and living on the edge go hand in hand. Some of the most expensive foods in the world are also the most dangerous. Many of these dangerous foods are extremely rare, but some of the dangers which can be applied to the most expensive delicacies also apply to every day foods that most of us can afford.

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