There are times when we are offered food or drinks that we tend to refuse for many a different reason, and we hear someone insist, “Come on, try it – it won’t kill you.” Well as it turns out, sometimes, it can.
Sometimes completely normal, everyday foods can turn toxic, things like raw or even infected meat, stuff past its expiry date, and of course, unwashed veggies and fruits. The fault lies less with the food and more with the preparation, and this is when nutrition ends up turning into food poisoning. Bad food items and edible stuff that has gone rotten, or simply not cleaned or cooked long enough, can harbor harmful ingredients such as toxins, bacteria, and even traces of fertilizer or insecticide. Obviously, using food while its fresh and ensuring that it has been washed well and cooked through makes that food more appetizing, and less poisonous.
That said, there are some foods in the world that are poison through and through – and yet they are not only eaten by the locals and adventurous foodies, but are also highly prized as delicacies. These exotic foods are killers, and one slip by the “chef” in question will make sure that this food will kill. These wildly popular exotic foods have been raved about by gastronomists forever despite the fact that eating any one of them is like playing Russian Roulette – you may not die this time, but next time might prove to be your last time!
15. A Recipe For Disaster: Fruits With Secrets
An apple a day keeps the doctor away and we’re sure that eating other fruits like cherries, apricots, plums, and peaches will keep you in the best of health too. Just don’t ingest their pits! The pits or stones of these fruits contain cyanogenic compounds. Crush them and these compounds turn to every spy’s favorite way out – cyanide! Before you begin hyperventilating about all those cherry pits that you accidentally swallowed whole, don’t worry for they are rarely poisonous when swallowed whole. But do avoid chewing up the pits because these can open heaven’s door or hell’s gate for you.
Of course, even a couple of chewed-up pits will not kill you, most of these seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide but hey, a few of these cracked pits can make you sick. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning include, but are not limited to: headaches, dizziness, confusion, anxiety, and vomiting. A large dose, like if you put in whole cherries in your smoothie or something can lead to difficulty in breathing, increased blood pressure and a rapid heart rate, and kidney failure and far more serious consequences like coma, convulsions, and death from respiratory arrest. Pit the cherries people, pit the cherries!
14. The Smoking Shot: Nitro-Cocktails Can Kill
The next time someone offers you a “smoking” drink, which is basically a nitro cocktail of sorts (a drink cooled with dry ice or liquid nitrogen), you should think long and hard before accepting it. Now as we all learned way back in school, liquid nitrogen is dangerous, toxic and all things bad. It’s the thing dermatologists use to freeze off warts because it’s cold as hell and freezes off anything it comes in contact with. It is used to put out fires (remember extinguishers?). Point being: we do not ingest it because it is dangerous AF!
So sure, trained chefs use it to make ice cream or even flash freeze herbs, and bartenders use it to turn glasses super cold, which is why they emit that smoky vapor; liquid nitrogen turns to fog when it comes in contact with air. But the liquid nitrogen has to fully evaporate before the bartender can pour that drink for you in that cold, ghostly glass. A girl named Gaby Scanlon had a rude awakening on her 18th birthday when the liquid nitro drinks she ordered had some liquid nitrogen in the glass. She was rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pain and breathlessness and had to have part of her stomach removed to save her life… Make sure your bartender knows what he or she is doing, or just stick to cool glasses rather than nitro-cooled ones!
13. Power Packed Almonds: Also Cyanide Loaded
There’s so much good that an almond packs. But the goodness comes in the form of cultivated sweet almonds. Wild almonds, well, they will most certainly kill you. Wild, bitter almonds contain a chemical called glycoside amygdalin. When you eat these bitter-tasting seeds, the glycoside amygdalin in them will be metabolized into prussic acid, more commonly known as hydrogen cyanide (yep, the very same key ingredient in Zyklon B, the “pesticide” used in the Nazi gas chambers).
Now frankly, a bitter-tasting almond should automatically make you spit it out, it tastes gross. But if for some reason you have a penchant for all things bitter, then remember that just a few handfuls of these wild guys will be enough to kill you, or zap you into a coma and basically be very, very bad for you. Each raw bitter almond contains 4-9 mg of cyanide and it takes just about .7mg per pound of body weight for cyanide to turn killer. You do the math…
12. Red Spells Danger: But Not With Rhubarb
The red stalks of the rhubarb plant are often used in jams, pies, desserts and sometimes even drinks. And in the case of rhubarb, the ruby redness of its stalks means it safe to eat. It’s the green leaves you need to steer clear of. The leaves contain oxalic acid, which is very, very acidic indeed – eating the leaves can cause burning of your mouth, throat, and digestive tract, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and if left untreated, or undetected, even death. This happens because of the dual nature of oxalic acids – it’s very corrosive and also a nephrotoxic, meaning it eats through your insides and can really harm your kidneys. Basically eating the leaves is like drinking acid and we all know that we need to avoid that, don’t we?
There have been instances of pet deaths related to leaves, and one medical case of a child dying too. In WWI, rhubarb leaves were mistaken for a food source, and let’s just say, it was a rather painful period for the soldiers who ate it.
11. The Adventurous Sushi: Fugu or Puffer Fish
If you see a puffer fish in action, it kinda looks inedible, dangerous, and not something you’d want on your table. Remember Bloat from Finding Nemo? The balloon that looked like a fish? Or okay, the fish that ballooned up when in stress or danger?
Well, this puffer fish has deadly skin and organs which contain a toxin called tetrodotoxin that paralyzes your muscles. And if you remember your Biology 101, you’d remember that your heart and lungs are also muscular in nature. So in case you ate an ill-prepared puffer fish or rather, a puffer fish served by a chef with murderous intent or a careless nature, you’d be dead by asphyxiation and respiratory arrest. You will not be able to breathe and to top that off, your heart will stop! Cooking doesn’t kill the toxicity and there’s no antidote to this poison which why “trained” chefs remove its liver, ovaries, and skin before serving it. Our advice: stick to salmon!
10. Killer Fruit: Ack! It’s Ackee
In 2011, this fruit sickened almost 200 Jamaicans and killed 20 of them, according to Jamaican media. It’s a funny-looking fruit, though it leaves a tragic wake behind it. A member of the soapberry family, which has got nothing to do with soaps, you may know its non-toxic kin, the very safe to eat lychee.
For those of us who haven’t met it, and do not wish to meet it either – the ackee is a pear-shaped fruit with roots, literally, native to West Africa and its toxicity is such that it needs to fully ripen before you eat it. And when it needs to fully ripen, that doesn’t mean it needs to get softer or tastier but that it then morphs from being a stone-cold killer to a fruit you can enjoy. If you thought I’m being over the top, import of the raw fruit is banned in the US, as per FDA regulations.
9. Shark Attack: On Your Insides
So the Greenland shark doesn’t have a urinary tract at all. And the reason why we are telling you this is that the fresh meat of this shark or any other sleeper shark is intensely poisonous as it contains Trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). If you eat this meat raw (think sushi and sashimi) or even if you eat it cooked, this ingested TMAO is metabolized by your body into trimethylamine. Trimethylamine, in turn, is a known human toxin which can cause symptoms similar to extreme drunkenness: loss of motor control, blurred vision, slurred speech, and can even lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs and if left untreated, death.
The Greenland shark is actually vastly eaten in Iceland. How? By treating and fermenting it for a period of six months or more after which it’s safe to eat but awful to smell (and eat!). The traditional method involves gutting and beheading the shark and then placing it in a small hole in the sand, covering it with sand, gravel, and stones to press the shark. After 6-12 weeks, the shark is cut into strips and hung to dry for several months. The crust is removed and the shark is cut into pieces and served. It smells of ammonia and is known to make newbies gag with distaste!
8. Casu Marzu: A Delicacy That’s Just Rotten
Think of maggots (so fine, you may not want to think of maggots, but for two minutes, just do) and what comes to mind? Rotting, putrid things that defy definition and we’d like to keep away from imagination too, right? Well mostly yes, but for Sardinians, maggots mean food. A putrefied sheep’s cheese wriggling with hundreds of live maggots that jump at you when you eat the cheese – and yes, the more the maggots and the smellier the cheese, the more it is valued. Supposedly an aphrodisiac, the cheese is considered toxic and “bad” by the Sardinian aficionados if the maggots are dead.
So only the cheese that has these jumpy maggots in it is considered to be good, though sometimes the cheese is refrigerated before consumption which kills the maggots. The maggots remain in the cheese but at least they don’t jump 6 inches high and land on your face just when you are about to take a (yummy?) bite! Can it kill you? Well, rarely it has made people very, very ill but it may make you really appreciate that bathroom throne all that much more.
7. Spanish Fly: The Aphrodisiac That Kills
If someone offers you a little Spanish fly to get you into the frisky mood, yell bloody murder because that’s what the Spanish fly does. It murders. Basically, it’s a beetle, not a fly, and it’s found in bright colors to announce its toxicity to the world. The toxin in question is Cantharidin which is an active terpenoid and while it was thought of as an aphrodisiac, it can kill, and has too.
The famous Venezuelan leader Simon Bolivar is suspected to have died of an accidental poisoning from Cantharidin. In 1954, a “gentleman” named Arthur Kendrick Ford was convicted for the unintended deaths of two women surreptitiously given candies laced with cantharidin, which was intended to act as an aphrodisiac and make the women lust for him – but they just died! In Morocco and Africa, spice blends known as ras el hanout contained “green metallic beetles” as an ingredient but this was banned in the 90s, thankfully!
6. Fancy Being A Vampire: Try Raw Blood Soup
You might have ordered the Thai signature dish many times before, laab (pronounced “lahb”) is a minced meat dish, usually beef or pork, adorned with plenty of chili and herbs and then dramatically stir-fried in a flaming wok. So? Not exotic or dangerous is it? Nope, not in the US.
But the actual Thai version of this dish is a tad different from the US one. In Thailand shacks, it’s served raw and accompanied with splashes of bile and blood – all raw, and apparently a meal to die for, literally. Bitter cow bile, a grassy tang from the undigested contents of a cow’s stomach and the sweetness from minced, raw meat, garnished with fresh raw blood and spices and finally served slightly chilled. And yes, only the “manliest of men” dare to eat this for it comes loaded with dangerous parasites. Streptococcus Suis, a fatal infection from raw meat, is very high in Thailand as is its incidence of bile duct cancer. This meal is probably what Death favors above all.
5. The Bitter Truth: Cyanide-Laden Cassava
Cassava, Tapioca or Manioc is a woody shrub found in the Caribbean and South America and is the third most important source of calories in the tropics. However, cassava’s natural bitterness harbors cyanide. When the roots are properly soaked and dried and the eaters have enough protein in their diet, cassava is fine to consume but when any part of this essential process is skipped, problems arise. In countries like America, due to strict regulations and stricter food processing, the Cassava you buy from stores is safe to eat.
But in poorer countries like Africa where getting enough food is in itself an issue, many people suffer from a chronic and crippling cyanide poisoning called konzo in which the lower limbs turn rigid and leave the person with a chronic crippling gait and sometimes even extensive paralysis and yes, even death. It’s a tragedy of uncommon proportions where hunger, and the need for sustenance, wins over the fear of poisoning and even subsequent death.
4. It’s Croaking Good: Frogs That Kill
Frogs legs are considered quite a delicacy, especially among the French. However in some African countries, it’s the whole frog they eat, notably the giant bullfrog. The frog is carnivorous and has rather massive jaws, which it happily uses to gulp down snakes, birds, and even other reptiles. The skin and the inner organs of this rather large amphibian contain substances that are known to be massively toxic to humans. So do the locals who consume this giant croaker as a celebratory dish have a death wish?
Well, locals deem it fair game after the area’s third rain and once these frogs have finished mating. However, to ensure that the “eater” doesn’t end up croaking themselves, they line their cooking pots with branches of a local plant which neutralizes the toxin, or so they say. That said, if you are a novice and end up eating the wrong bits at the wrong time of the year, well come on baby don’t fear the reaper!
3. Hankering For Fresh Food: Try Live Octopi
Like your food so fresh that it literally moves on your plate? Well, then this potentially fatal food would be just right for your palate. Most rebirth advocates would shudder to be born an octopus which is caught as food in Korea. The poor thing, a baby octopus, is cut into strips while it is still alive and then garnished with sesame oil and sesame seeds, and served still squirming on your plate as a meal to die for… Sometimes instead of being cut into strips, it’s also simply pierced with a shish kebab stick and the tentacles are wrapped around for neatness and then octopi on a lolly are served with sesame oil dips!
Fortunately for the octopus, it does manage to get its own back every now and then. Since its tentacles contain neurons, they not only continue to move but the suction cups maintain their gripping power. If you don’t chew these suckers and swallow instead, they get lodged in your throat and it’s bye bye life and hello grim reaper.
2. A Rocking Meal: The Molina Animal
If you get to Peru and feel like having a plated adventure, and by that we mean eat something so exotic it can kill you, ask for a serving of the Molina animal. Scientifically known as Pyura Chilensis, eaten raw or cooked and basically tasting of iodine (gross!), it looks like a rock, but cut it open and you’ll find bloody, organ-containing insides that resemble things unlucky enough to be in a nuclear fallout.
This peculiar creature is an expert in procreation, to a level that it can do the dirty all by its lonesome self. It’s born a male and becomes a hermaphrodite (can produce both sperm and eggs) at, uh, puberty and then reproduces by shooting sperm and egg into the water it lives in. Oh and the stuff inside this “rock” is rich in vanadium which is a heavy metal that can destroy your liver for good. Talk about dangerous and disgusting food!
1. A Glutton For Punishment: Blood Clams
Blood clams are called so because well, their insides are bloody. Harvested in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, and the Pacific, blood clams live in low-oxygen environments and so they take in more water than other clams and end up ingesting every kind of virus and bacteria in the waters they dwell in. Frankly, that should be an indication to steer clear of them.
Considered to be a rather delicious Chinese delicacy, ill-prepared blood clams can contain many viruses and bacteria like hepatitis A, E, typhoid, and dysentery and as much as 15% of people who eat blood clams do get infected by one of these gut-wrenching diseases. And yes, people do die of blood clam poisoning as well. In China especially, blood clams are quick boiled and served, and that’s not enough to kill the viruses. If you must have them, make sure they have been cooked properly or else all you are eating are delicious diseases that might just take you to meet your maker! Bon Appétit.