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Sexually Transmitted Fish Toxin

There are neurotoxins in certain fish that can survive cooking and cause unusual symptoms.

November 20, 2009 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Image thanks to andreasnilsson1976.


What if we do it ourselves? From the meat counter straight home in a biohazard suit to place the meat directly into boiling water, assuring absolutely no cross-contamination in the kitchen. Even if it’s fish—the one animal more contaminated than chicken—would we finally be out of the woods?
Fact or fiction: You can’t get food poisoning from properly handled and cooked fish. Now it’s easy to get food poisoning eating raw seafood. About 85% of fish is contaminated with fecal bacteria thanks to “gut waste exposed during [fish] evisceration,” we can get cholera from raw oysters—in fact there was a newly emerging strain reported last year in the U.S. Or one can get tapeworms from sushi, and other delights and parasites such as brain worms or eye worms—I’ll spare you a photo. Or necrotizing infections reported this year from oysters, shellfish or other seafood, the so-called flesh-eating bacteria. Immediate limb amputations were performed, but still 37% of the victims died.
But what if you cook out the crap? Fish don’t get mad cow disease—which is caused by a pathogen that can survive even incineration at temperatures hot enough to melt lead. So are we safe if it’s cooked? And this is only in terms of food poisoning—we’re not talking long-term effects of eating the mercury or PBCs. In terms of acute illness only, as long as you cook it is it safe? Or not necessarily?
It turns out some of the most common causes of fishborne food poisoning are not destroyed by cooking. 50,000 people get poisoned every year from a neurotoxin in tropical fish, like red snapper, sea bass, grouper, who eat fish who eat toxic algae. Can cause all sorts of weird reactions, like a reversal of hot and cold sensations. And, after fish consumption, the toxin itself can be sexually transmitted and cause weeks of painful genital symptoms. So even if we don’t eat fish and our nonvegetarian lover assures us they properly handled and cooked their fish we may not be safe.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out theother videos on foodborne illness and fish. Also, there are 1,449 other subjectscovered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on foodborne illness and fish. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Sasank Jonna

    Doctor, so are you saying we need to avoid eating fish and other sea food? if thats not the point, which sea food is the safest and what is the best way to eat it?

  • Kathleen Lisle

    Dr. Greger, I got a request to like a Facebook page about a boy that has an undiagnosed neurodegenerative disease or condition, & he’s in a wheelchair. I asked what he eats, & posted your link, & said to look up “Nerve Health” on your website, & I commented on chicken having arsenic & causing many public health issues. I don’t know what else to do. I hope he gets a plant based diet. I’m thinking he gets junk food to eat. Poor kid. Is there anything else I can say that might help???