An elderly couple from Malaysia have passed away after consuming poisonous pufferfish, leading their family to call for stricter regulations on the dish.
The couple, Ng Chuan Sing and Lim Siew Guan, had unknowingly purchased at least two pufferfish from an online vendor on March 25, according to officials in the state of Johor.
They experienced “breathing difficulties and shivers” shortly after Ms Guan fried the fish and were quickly rushed to the hospital.
Despite being admitted to intensive care, Guan was pronounced dead mere hours later, and Sing fell into a coma for eight days before passing away on Saturday morning.
Ng Ai Lee, their daughter, has since called for stronger laws in Malaysia, where at least 30 species of pufferfish are commonly found.
During a press conference at the couple’s home, she urged the government to boost enforcement and awareness of pufferfish poisoning to prevent such incidents from happening again.
The cooking of pufferfish, also known as fugu, is subject to stringent laws in many countries.
In Japan and Korea, where pufferfish is also a delicacy, only chefs with at least three years experience can legally prepare the fish.
Without the aforementioned training or proper preparation, the fish (which contains high levels of tetrodotoxin) remains toxic.
Although Malaysian law prohibits even the sale of poisonous and harmful food—such as pufferfish meat—it is still said to be sold at many wet markets.
Records show 58 incidents of pufferfish poisoning have been reported in the country between 1985 and 2023, resulting in 18 fatalities.
The couple’s deaths have sparked public outrage, and the authorities are now investigating the incident.
“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,” said Ling Tian Soon, chief of the Johor Health and Unity Committee.