Considered a delicacy in Japan, fugu, also known as pufferfish or blowfish, can only be prepared by chefs who have obtained a special permit to safely remove and dispose of the lethal poison tetrodotoxin, contained mostly within the fish's liver, but also the skin, intestine and ovaries.

So, you can imagine the panic that ensued in the city of Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture yesterday, when, according to a report by the Asahi Shimbun, a concerned citizen contacted a local public health center noting that liver (above right in the picture below) had been included in a pack of fugu she had bought at the supermarket.

Upon examination, Aichi Prefecture officials confirmed that the pack purchased at the Super Tatsuya supermarket in Gamagori contained the liver of a blunthead pufferfish. Using the emergency broadcasting system, city officials immediately sent out a warning through the loudspeakers to all citizens, requesting their cooperation and urging them not to consume any fugu for the time being.

At the time of writing, five of the seven packs have been accounted for, the whereabouts of two remaining packs has yet to be determined. The officials cautioned that eating a pufferfish liver can paralyze motor nerves, and in a serious case cause respiratory arrest leading to death.

Super Tatsuya president Tatsuji Suzuki explained: "We've been selling (blunthead pufferfish) for decades. This kind of pufferfish isn't so highly poisonous." And then, in a possible attempt at humor, he added: "But mark my liver, I'll never sell it again!" (The Japanese expression 肝に銘じて kimo ni meijite, typically used to convey strong resolve or commitment, literally means "to brand one's liver," from a traditional belief that the liver is the most important organ of the body).

Wisecracking supermarket managers aside, it's probably good practice to give your pack of fugu a once-over the next time you're buying, whether you're in Gamagori or anywhere else in Japan, for that matter.

By - Ben K.