Food safety is paramount, regardless of whether you are a vendor at a farmer’s market or a franchise owner.

Contaminated food can be deadly. However, many foods must be prepared with extreme care to prevent serious illness or death.

Fugu is a Japanese delicacy. It must be prepared correctly to avoid customers asphyxiating in your dining area. But many foods can cause death if they are not properly prepared.

While some of these exotic foods can be difficult to find in Canada due to their rarity, others are staples in your pantry and dry goods storage. Here are eight dangerous foods, ranging from fugu to kidney beans.


Fugu, the Japanese name for pufferfish, is lethally poisonous. Fugu’s liver, intestines, and ovaries contain tetrodotoxin. This neurotoxin is up to 1,200 times as deadly as cyanide.

The lethal dose of toxic tetrodotoxin can be less than the head of one pin, and one fish has enough poison for 30 people. Fugu can cause paralysis of motor nerves and fatal respiratory arrest if it is not prepared correctly.

To obtain a fugu-preparing license, Japanese chefs must complete years of training. Despite these precautions, many people are killed by improperly prepared fugu each year.

Ackee fruit

The national fruit of Jamaica is the ackee. It’s a tasty but dangerous treat. The poisonous substance hypoglycin in unripe ackee is deadly, so it must be completely ripe before being eaten.

When the fruit is ready for picking, the seams will split open.

Do not open an ackee berry by yourself. It must be opened on its own. Avoid eating any pink flesh or black seeds. They are extremely toxic.

Incorrect preparation of ackee fruits can cause serious illness, also known as the “Jamaican Vomiting Syndrome”, leading to death or coma.


Sannakji is a Korean dish that is made from live baby octopus tentacles. They are then cut into pieces and seasoned, then served immediately.

Culinary daredevils will eat the tentacles as they are still on the plate. This is very dangerous.

The tentacles’ suction pads can be used to maintain suction after they are removed. Diners should chew the tentacles first before they stick in the roof of their mouth.

The tentacles can get stuck to the throat and mouth, causing customers to choke. Six people die each year from trying to eat sannakji, according to Food & Wine.


Hakarl is Greenland shark meat, which is traditionally prepared in Iceland. It is dried and then hung to dry for three to five months. This is done to neutralize high urea levels, trimethylamine oxide and other harmful substances in shark flesh.

Greenland sharks do not have a bladder, so any waste or toxins are filtered through the skin and flesh.

This mixture of compounds protects the shark from the cold arctic waters. However, the chemicals are so concentrated that even a few bites of uncured fresh meat can cause extreme intoxication.

If eaten in large quantities, you may experience neurological effects, convulsions, and even death.


Cassava is a tropical root crop that looks similar to taro or yam. It’s used for making juice, chips, pudding, and cakes. However, its leaves and roots can contain deadly cyanide. Cassava must always be cooked properly before canning, eating, or serving.

Cassava can be divided into two types: sweet or bitter. Sweet cassava has low cyanogenic sugars (50 mg/kg) and can reduce toxic levels. However, bitter cassava is more toxic and must be grated and soaked before consumption.

These guidelines have been provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).


The brightly colored Rhubarb is often used in jams, pies and other dishes, has a darker side. The leaves of Rhubarb, which should never be used in baking and cooking, contain oxalic acids.

Too much oxalic acid can cause death, but you will need to consume large amounts of rhubarb leaves (roughly 11 pounds) to get it.

Consuming small quantities of improperly prepared food can lead to various unpleasant symptoms such as burning in the throat and mouth, nausea, diarrhea and eye pain.

Kidney stones can also be caused by oxalic acid. These are made up of hard deposits of minerals or acid salts stuck together in concentrated urine. They are well-known for their ability to cause severe pain, vomiting, bloody urine, fever, and chills.


Elderberries are a native Canadian fruit that can be used in jams.

Elderberry leaves, twigs, and seeds can contain dangerous levels of cyanide-producing glycoside (‘cyanogenic glucoside’). Elderberries can cause severe diarrhea if they aren’t properly ripened or strained when processed.

Consuming large amounts of glycoside can cause seizures, coma, or death. You would need to have at least five glasses to be in danger. However, even a cup of elderberry products that are not properly prepared could lead to serious illness.

Red kidney beans

Red kidney beans are high in plant-based protein and fiber. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals.

Phytohaemagglutinin may cause damage to the gut wall, which can prevent it from absorbing nutrients correctly. You may experience diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and other poisoning symptoms.

To be safe, dried red kidney beans should be cooked just right. This involves boiling the beans for 10 minutes and soaking them for at least an hour.

According to the U.S. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if dried kidney beans are cooked for less than 10 minutes at a temperature below boiling, they can increase toxicity fivefold. This means that beans are more toxic than if eaten raw.

Canada’s food safety

Although most of the food we eat in Canada is safer than those hazardous foods, it is important to remember that food can still be dangerous if not properly handled.

Canada is a country where food poisoning, complications from food-borne illnesses, anaphylaxis and choking, and injuries from contaminated foods are common.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, food poisoning causes over 11,500 hospitalizations each year and 240 deaths every year.

Every sector of Canada’s food industry requires food handlers to be trained in safe food preparation, preventing cross-contamination, managing allergens, and other critical tasks from reducing health risks.

Most provinces and territories require that food establishments have at least one person who has completed a food handling course and holds a valid food safety certificate.

Food safety training is vital for food safety and success in a food business. You can complete an online course for as little or as long as you like.


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