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Couple die hours after frying and eating poisonous puffer fish
Featured Image Credit: The Star/YouTube

Couple die hours after frying and eating poisonous puffer fish

The Malaysian couple started experiencing symptoms on the day they ate the fish

A couple in their 80s have both passed away after buying and eating a poisonous pufferfish from an online seller.

Ng Chuan Sing and his wife, Lim Siew Guan, from Malaysia, bought at least two pufferfish in the online transaction which took place on 25 March.

At least 30 species of the animal are commonly found in waters surrounding the country, and almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance which is deadly to humans.

According to National Geographic, tetrodotoxin is up to 1,200 times more poisonous to humans than cyanide, with one pufferfish containing enough of the poison to kill 30 adult humans.

There is no known antidote to tetrodotoxin, but the meat of the pufferfish is still considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.

Lim died hours after eating the fish.
YouTube/The Star

In Malaysia, the sale of poisonous and harmful food like pufferfish meat is prohibited by law, but Aileen Tan, a marine biologist and director at the Universiti Sains Malaysia Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies, told CNN poisonous pufferfish are still sold at many Malaysian wet markets.

“It’s considered exotic and tends to attract consumers,” Tan said. “Once pufferfish have been cleaned and sold as slices, it is nearly impossible for the public to know the type of fish that they purchased.

"As for sellers, it is debatable on their (part) if they are aware (of the risks).”

Ng and Lim are said not to have been aware the food they were buying was poisonous, and after they received the fish Lim fried it up for lunch and ate the meal with her husband.

Ng passed away after falling into a coma.
YouTube/The Star

That same day, Lim began to experience 'breathing difficulties and shivers', authorities in the southern state of Johor said.

Just an hour after eating the fish, Ng started showing similar symptoms.

The couple were both rushed to hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit, but Lim was sadly pronounced dead at 7pm local time on the same day she consumed the fish.

Ng fell into a coma for eight days, but his condition worsened and he died on Saturday morning (7 April).

The couple’s daughter, Ng Ai Lee, discussed the news of her parents' passing at a press conference in which she demanded accountability for the loss of her parents, as well as for stronger laws to be implemented in Malaysia to prevent other families from meeting the same fate.

The couple's daughter is demanding someone be held accountable.
YouTube/The Star

“Those responsible for their deaths should be held accountable under the law and I hope the authorities will speed up investigations,” she said.

“I also hope the Malaysian government will beef up enforcement and help to raise public awareness on pufferfish poisoning to prevent such incidents from happening again.”

Authorities in Malaysia are investigating who sold the fish to the couple, with Ling Tian Soon, chief of the Johor Health and Unity Committee, saying: “The state district health office has opened investigations under the Food Act 1983… and carried out an investigation on the ground to identify the supplier, wholesaler and seller of the pufferfish.

“Information on pufferfish has also been posted on the Health Ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Facebook page.

“We urge the public to be careful when choosing their food, especially if it has known risks."

Topics: Food and Drink, World News, Health