Monkfish recalled after 2 become ill
WASHINGTON » A frozen product labeled monkfish distributed in Hawaii and two other states is being recalled because two people living near Chicago became ill after eating it, the importer said yesterday.
Hong Chang Corp. of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., said it is recalling the product labeled as monkfish because it might contain tetrodotoxin, a potent toxin.
Hawaii consumers who purchased monkfish should return it to the place of purchase or discard it, a state Department of Health news release said.
TETRODOTOXIN IN LIFE AND ART
Tetrodotoxin is a potent, deadly poison that disrupts the nervous system. There is no known antidote. It is found in various toads and fish, notably puffer fish, known in Japan as fugu. Perhaps its most famous victim is Japan's celebrated kabuki actor Mitsugoro Bando, who died after eating improperly prepared fugu in 1975.
In the James Bond novel and film "From Russia with Love," enemy agent Rosa Klebb poisons and nearly kills 007 with, as revealed in "Dr. No," a tetrodotoxin-laced spike in her shoe.
"People should just not eat monkfish," said Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Health Department. "It went out and it is out there and people may buy it."
Since September, 64 cases of the product were shipped to a local distributor, who has detained a majority of the shipment and will be able to track the remaining cases, Okubo said. The product is being recalled from various local restaurants and markets, according to the Health Department.
No illnesses from eating monkfish have been reported to the state Health Department, Okubo said.
While the frozen fish, imported from China, was labeled monkfish, the company said it is concerned that it could be puffer fish. The suspect toxin usually is associated with certain types of puffer fish, known as fugu in Japan.
Eating foods containing tetrodotoxin can result in life-threatening illness or death. The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing.
The company said two people near Chicago became ill after eating soup containing the fish. Analysis by the Food and Drug Administration confirmed the presence of the toxin.
Beginning in September, 282 22-pound boxes of the fish were distributed to wholesalers in Illinois, California and Hawaii, according to the company. The fish was sold in retail stores, restaurants and cash-and-carry stores in these regions.
Labels on one panel read, "Monk fish gutted and head-off product of China." A second box panel bears nutritional facts and the following: "Ingredients: Monk fish; Imported by: Hong Chang Corp., Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670; Product of China (P.R.C.)."
A spokeswoman for Hong Chang Corp. said the company is working with the FDA to resolve the issue, and declined to comment further.
Star-Bulletin staff and news reports