A headline in the Philippine Daily Inquirer from four years ago tells the sad tale about the deadly puffer fish in the Philippines that continues to ring true today: "People never learn: Puffer fish meals kill 4."
The latest tragedy occurred in Calabanga, Camarines Sur, where two boys were rushed to the hospital where they were declared dead after eating puffer fish for dinner Monday night, according to The Philippine Star and Inquirer Southern Luzon.
John Edsel Bristol, 7, and Anton Rey Bristol, 6, suffered stomach pain and vomiting after eating the fish popularly known as butete or tikong, according to Senior Inspector Ma. Louisa Calubaquib of the Bicol Police.
Another boy, Arnold Reforsado, 6, an orphan, also ate part of the fish and was rushed to the same Bicol Medical Center in Naga City on Tuesday morning after reporting similar symptoms. He is said to be recovering.
Neither report mentioned the parents and whether they also ate the fish, presumably caught while fishing.
Almost all 120 species of puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a deadly substance that is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide, according to National Geographic.
Some puffer fish are considered a delicacy; they are called fugu in Japan and are only prepared and served by trained, licensed chefs who know the fatal consequences of not preparing them properly.
In February, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the Philippines reminded the public of the ban on fishing, selling and eating puffer fish and goby fish, which also contain the poison.
The Inquirer Southern Luzon reported that the warning came after the deaths of two boys, 7 and 8, and a 2-year-old girl, who all ate the poisonous goby fish.
Sadly, not everyone is getting the message.
Earlier this month, a 4-year-old girl died several hours after sharing a meal of puffer fish with her family in Siruma, Camarines Sur, the Inquirer Southern Luzon reported. Four other family members experienced symptoms of food poisoning.
In the latest incident, samples from the left over puffer fish were obtained by personnel of the Municipal Health Office of Calabanga for analysis and examination. The Calabanga Municipal Police Station and Local Government Unit are said to be currently conducting an investigation into the children's deaths.
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