Be aware of the sale of deadly octopuses

MARKET SURPRISE:
Two people in Taiwan have been hospitalized since 2020, and another had a close call, as the COA warned consumers of the deadly mollusc

  • By Kayleigh Madjar / Editor, with CNA

The Council of Agriculture (COA) shared advice on Tuesday on how to tell a blue-ringed octopus apart from other species, after reports that someone bought the poisonous creature from a market in New Taipei City. .

Last month, someone from a local Facebook group in Tamsui District (淡水) posted a warning about buying from a local seafood vendor.

After bringing home the batch of octopuses, the poster realized that one looked different from the others and didn’t cook it.

The person was later told it was a blue-ringed octopus, a small but highly venomous species characterized by the neon blue rings that dot its body.

The story gained traction in local media, which also reported that he carried enough toxin in his tiny body to kill 26 people.

The seller told reporters that since the small edible octopuses are sold in bundles, this was not noticed until the customer made the purchase.

Although it looks like other species when dead, the octopus can be identified by the blue rings on its body, the council said earlier this week.

When alive, the octopus has striking blue and black rings along a yellowish body, he said, adding that the rings turn dark brown when it dies, making it harder to tell apart. of other types.

Hwang Deng-fwu (黃登福), a professor at the Marine Toxins Laboratory of National Taiwan Ocean University, said blue-ringed octopuses are often mistakenly caught by fishermen because they only have about the size of a person’s thumb, adding that they come to market easily as they resemble edible types of octopus.

Two people in Taiwan since 2020 have been sent to the emergency room for accidentally eating a blue-ringed octopus, Hwang said.

Eating one or two is unlikely to cause lasting consequences, but three could be fatal, Hwang said, adding that eating one would likely result in numbness in the mouth, lips and tongue within a minute or so. of them.

As ambulances in Taiwan usually get people to the hospital within half an hour, there is plenty of time for treatment while the body metabolizes the toxin, he said.

However, waiting until there are breathing difficulties to seek treatment would likely be too late, he added.

For example, if a diver is bitten by one and cannot receive treatment for two or three hours, it could be fatal, although most divers are aware of the risk, he said.

Regarding the claim that one octopus could kill 26 people, Lee Kwen-shen (李坤瑄), an associate researcher at the National Museum’s Natural Science Biology Department, said it was referring to the amount of venom it contains. , which has the ability to completely paralyze a victim and make it difficult to breathe without medical assistance.

The waters around Taiwan have the same types of blue-ringed octopus found around the Philippines and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, with equally potent venom, along with two others that have yet to be analyzed, Lee said. .

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