We all love food, but not all food loves you. In fact, certain foods have the potential to pose harm and should be avoided at all costs. In this article, we highlight 20 perilous foods that can that can kill you.
Japanese Fugu Fish
Japanese Fugu Fish, pufferfish, are the second most poisonous vertebrate on the planet. Even in second place, these fish can contain enough deadly tetradetoxin to kill 30 humans. So, I reckon that second place rating is really irrelevant.
They’re named pufferfish for the weird way they protect themselves from would-be predators. In the wild, they can pump themselves up to make it extremely difficult for a predator to keep a hold of them or even sink their teeth in. In reality, this defense mechanism probably saves the predator’s life as often as it does the pufferfish’s because just one nibble could kill.
Although their reputation as a super deadly poisonous fish is extremely well known, there are still plenty of people out there who want to eat the pufferfish. Crazy perhaps, but it is true. In Japan, this fish is a delicacy known as fugu. But it absolutely must be prepared by a highly skilled certified person. Make one little tiny wrong cut when preparing a pufferfish, and whoever eats it is a goner. This is a serious business. Although there’s approximately one death per year from ingesting this delicacy, they are almost always caused by people attempting to prepare the fish themselves rather than paying the high restaurant prices for an expert to do it properly.
People eat them all the time, but did you know they’re way more dangerous than you may realize? They’re not just unhealthy; they’re super unhealthy. They’re made with genetically modified corn and flavored with MSG. They’re only that color because they’re dyed with dangerous dyes. They’re also high in sodium and can cause inflammation, which can lead to migraines, celiac disease, asthma, diabetes, and arthritis. They’re considered to be a carcinogen. I mean, why does anybody eat these things?
The trouble with mushrooms is that these things are extremely tricksy. They may seem completely innocent but could actually be hiding all kinds of deadly secrets. While there are plenty of edible and delicious mushrooms out there, there are some extra sneaky ones that look a lot like them but are actually extremely poisonous. In 2019, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported there had been 5,799 poisonings caused by mushrooms, including two deaths. Now call me a safety nerd, but that’s an awful lot of careless ingestion of fungus. Or there are many more chefs with murderous intentions out there than one might imagine.
Either way, it’s probably a sign that mushrooms can be pretty dangerous if you don’t completely know what it is that you’re eating. Beware of lethally toxic mushrooms that masquerade as edible ones. And even if you do have a lovely shiny new illustrated guidebook to go with your basket, a genuine foraging expert might actually prove to be the better companion on food finding missions in the woods. Otherwise, they just might not find your body for weeks.
Those cashews you’ve been buying and turning into vegan substitutes for all manner of exciting food-based experiences can kill you. Although the label says raw cashews when you buy them at the store, they’re actually not technically raw at all. Genuinely raw, straight from the tree cashews actually contain a deadly toxin. Apparently, they can actually make you rather dead indeed. Turns out that raw cashews contain a chemical called urushiol, which is the same stuff that’s found in poison ivy, and it can really mess you up if you happen to be allergic to it. But fear not, those so-called raw cashew nuts that you can actually buy in the store have either been roasted at high heat or steamed. That process removes all the gross and dangerous gubbins from the nuts before they’re shelled, dried, and peeled. Really raw cashews are still in their shells and untreated. Those are the ones that absolutely can’t be eaten by humans unless said humans are hell-bent for a one-way ticket to the cemetery.
Apparently, it is a thing that people eat, and some of them even do it on purpose. This Icelandic dish apparently dates all the way back to Viking times. We all know that they were only doing things that we should continue to enjoy in the modern world, you know, like all of that invading and ransacking and general ultra-violence that was perfectly sensible. So, they probably had some excellent recipes as well. You know, if you fancy a little bit of fermented shark meat, you’ll have to go along with a few rules because the stuff is not only gross-sounding but it’s also actually kind of dangerous.
The act of fermenting the shark was actually part of the food preservation practices that were essential to ensure year-long supplies of sustenance during the more lean months. So, it would make sense that in years past, you know, before modern things like refrigeration became widely available, that this would be put into practice. These days, it’s a delicacy rooted in keeping the traditions alive, but the sharks used to make this stuff are actually not even edible when the meat is fresh. It is poisonous, so it does require processing before the meat can actually be ingested.
The shark is usually liberated of its head and then gutted like any other fish, but then it’s bunged up in a hole in the ground and left for up to 6 to 18 weeks. After that, it’s dug up, cut up, and hung out to dry. The resulting stuff has received decidedly mixed reviews, anywhere from disgusting and terrible tasting to like blue cheese but a hundred times stronger. And in some extreme cases, physical revulsion and immediate expulsion of the offending item.
Actually, it is rhubarb, but unfortunately not the nonsense variety. This one may come as a shocker to you, even though the stuff that’s attached to them is delicious and totally edible. The leaves of the rhubarb plant are stuffed full of a dangerous toxin that can make you feel rather poorly, and occasionally, if you’re especially unfortunate, you could be dead. These leaves contain extremely high levels of a substance called oxalic acid. This stuff is natural and found in a whole lot of plants. In fact, it’s even found in quite a few things that you consume every day. However, the levels of it in rhubarb leaves are way higher than your average plant, and you have to consume a lot less of them to end up with a bad case of the extremely deadsies.
Of course, it’s kind of a mystery why anyone would want to eat them in the first place. Rhubarb stalks are delicious when sweetened up a bit and cooked into a pie or crumble. But the leaves? Nah, not so much. Ingesting these things can lead to a wide range of symptoms, ranging from relatively mild, such as vomiting and diarrhea, to severe, including kidney problems, breathing difficulties, and in extreme cases, death. So, just stick to the stalks, folks. The leaves are a serious no-no.
If you love microwave popcorn, then you should probably know that it might be harboring some nasties that are hell-bent on doing you harm. The thing with this isn’t really the popcorn itself that’s dangerous, but rather the packaging in which you cook it in the microwave. That bag, while it does seem innocuous enough, is actually coated with a plethora of almost four dozen chemicals. Now, I know it seems barmy, but this is the modern world, and when you pull open that bag and the steam escapes, it’s actually puffing out a cocktail of chemicals from the ink and glue on the bag all the way through to the butter flavorings on the corn.
There have been reported cases of severe respiratory disease, which is known as popcorn lung, and that’s linked to breathing large amounts of a chemical that’s used to make the buttery taste of the popcorn. While this condition seems to mainly affect workers in popcorn manufacturing plants, you should probably know that this is a thing that can hit anyone who’s exposed to the chemical in its high-temperature vapor format. The ingredient itself is actually present in all kinds of foods, which includes Twinkies and red wine, and it’s only the chemical process of heating it and allowing it to become a gas that can be inhaled that makes it toxic, allegedly.
Like a lot of things, though, that are surprisingly deadly, it is necessary to be exposed to this stuff a whole lot before it’s going to have any major adverse effects. And the advice of the manufacturer is to wait for the bag to cool down and then open it under a stovetop fan. Even so, it doesn’t sound incredibly reassuring, now does it?
Blood clams are a type of shellfish, and like all shellfish, they are filter feeders. This means they suck in water and filter out all the nutrients, as well as all the toxins and contaminants that might be in the water. Now, this is fine for the blood clam as they have a set of kidneys that are designed to deal with this sort of thing. However, not so great for humans. The blood clam is capable of filtering out some truly nasty stuff from the water, including viruses and bacteria that can cause some pretty serious health issues in humans. I’m not going to go into graphic detail here, but suffice it to say that if you happen to consume a blood clam that’s been filter-feeding in particularly polluted waters, you’re probably going to have a bad time. And by bad time, I mean a severe case of gastroenteritis or even hepatitis.
Believe it or not, there are still places in the world where blood clams are harvested from waters that are seriously contaminated with all kinds of grossness. And, for some reason, people are still eating them. So, if you’re a fan of shellfish, maybe do a little research on where they come from before you decide to throw a bunch of them in a pot of boiling water.
Who doesn’t love a good hot dog, right? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those delicious wieners could potentially kill you. Now, don’t get me wrong; hot dogs themselves aren’t necessarily dangerous. It’s the way they’re made that can be the problem. You see, hot dogs are made from processed meats, and during the processing, a number of chemicals are added to enhance the flavor, color, and texture. One of these chemicals is sodium nitrate, which is used as a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria and to give the hot dogs that nice pink color. Unfortunately, when sodium nitrate is cooked at high temperatures, it can turn into nitrosamines, which are compounds that have been linked to cancer.
In addition to the chemical concerns, hot dogs are also a choking hazard, especially for young children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hot dogs are the leading cause of food-related choking incidents in children under the age of 3. So, if you’re a parent, you might want to think twice before handing your little one a hot dog.
If you’re a fan of cheese, you might want to skip this one. Casu Marzu is a traditional Sardinian cheese that comes with a little extra something that you might not find in your typical cheese wheel. This cheese is known for containing live insect larvae. Yes, you heard that right. Maggots. The larvae of the cheese fly, to be precise. The larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese to aid in fermentation, and their digestive processes give the cheese its unique soft texture. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?
But here’s where it gets even more interesting. The larvae are meant to be consumed along with the cheese. In fact, if the larvae are dead, the cheese is considered unsafe to eat. Now, while the locals might be accustomed to this delicacy and consider it a part of their cultural heritage, many health experts and food safety authorities strongly advise against eating Casu Marzu. The cheese has been banned in the European Union due to hygiene concerns and the potential health risks associated with consuming live insect larvae. So, if you’re a cheese enthusiast, you might want to stick to the varieties without the added protein.
Some like it hot—really, really hot. I know that I do, but how hot is too hot when it comes to chili peppers? It turns out that the super spicy peppers can be harmful for your health if eaten in a massive quantity. That is, now one extra spicy chili pepper is not going to do you in; that’s true. But when people begin mucking about with things like pepper-eating contests and whatnot, that’s where the trouble can begin.
The chemical that makes pepper spicy is called capsaicin. This is the same stuff that’s used to make pepper spray, so it isn’t exactly pleasant, you know? However, that chemical is also responsible for the burning sensation you experience when you eat a spicy chili pepper. It’s actually a trick that the capsaicin plays on your body’s responses because it’s not actually burning you, but your body will throw everything at it as though it is. That’s why eating hot chili peppers is often uncomfortable. You can get such fun reactions as swelling, nausea, vomiting, eye pain, diarrhea, stomach pain, acid reflux, and even headaches.
Now, depending on your own personal sensitivity, the way your body reacts can vary from person to person. But even those who enjoy hot chili peppers might experience extreme symptoms if they get a large amount of very hot ones in a short space of time—like in a contest, for example. That’s when these things can become a bit more dangerous and can even cause your lungs to constrict, which I’m sure you know is kind of tricky for all the breathing that you actually need to do.
Here we are again with another one of those sneaky plants that’s hiding a lot of nasty cyanide inside. Elderberries themselves are not generally the problem, although they should be properly ripe and strained before eating, or the tricky little things can give you the most unpleasant dose of nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea.
The cyanides are hiding out in the leaves, twigs, and seeds of the plant, and the cyanogenic glycoside in these parts of the elderberry can actually cause seizures, coma, and if you’re especially unlucky, even death.
Allergic reactions to peanuts are on the rise, and they’re now among the most common of allergies, especially among children. An allergy to peanuts can cause a severe response, which includes anaphylaxis, which constricts the airways and can cause shock and even a loss of consciousness. So it is pretty serious and potentially super deadly. And if you’re an unlucky individual with a severe allergy—well, forget about it. This allergy is so very dangerous and surprisingly common that many schools have actually banned nuts from their premises. No more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in your lunchbox; that’s against the rules, kids.
Awareness of this potentially deadly condition has increased over recent years, and that coincides with a sharp increase in the number of children suffering from peanut allergies. A 2017 study in the United States reported that there had been increases in the number of children with peanut allergies since 2010. That is a massive increase. There’s now a greater awareness of food allergies in general, and product labeling reflects it. But when you have a life-threatening allergy like this one, eating anything at all can seem like Russian roulette.
Kidney and Lima Beans
This has got to be giving you anxiety. Aren’t we supposed to eat more of these sorts of things and not less? Is everything secretly stuffed full of deadly poisons now? Again, this is an issue with stuff being poorly prepared or consumed raw. And who would actually either eat their kidney beans or lima beans when they’re raw?
Fear not, though. These innocent-looking beans are probably not going to kill you—at least they aren’t going to leap out from your larder and stab you to death, anyways. When you cook these beans, you need to go through a few steps to make sure that they’re safe to eat. Red kidney beans have to be soaked for many hours before cooking them; this is going to remove some stuff called lectins from the legumes, which can actually kill the cells in your stomach. And nobody really wants that now, do they? Lima beans are even more tricksy; those things contain a crazy chemical compound called linamarin, which, if not properly cooked and drained, can actually turn into hydrogen cyanide. Get it wrong, and your dinner party may just turn into a murder party, and you know that’ll just kill the vibe.
Sometimes it seems as though you can’t do right for doing wrong. Everywhere you turn, there’s a booby trap. You follow a whole food, gluten-free, low-sugar, super health-sum, whatever the latest trend diet is, and even that’s trying to make you dead. Cassava flour is a popular gluten-free alternative to traditional wheat-based products, but this is not the form that can be deadly. That’s something, anyways. No, it’s actually the cassava’s leaves and roots where the danger lies, and guess what? They’re packed full of cyanide. Apparently, just two roots are enough to administer a fatal dose of cyanide.
Now, this is important. Don’t take it as any kind of advice or guidance, though, as all this dangerous poison chat is making me and Twinkle very nervous indeed. We would very much appreciate it if you promise you won’t play with any of this stuff. The crux of the matter when it comes to cassavas is that you should not consume it raw or in any large quantity, and it needs to be properly prepared, or you’re going to run the risk of getting dead. Regular consumption of cyanogenic glycosides, that’s the cyanide stuff in this vegetable, can actually lead to cyanide poisoning. This can result in impaired thyroid function, nerve damage, paralysis, harm to the organs, and yes, that ultimate symptom, death.
Here’s the newspaper’s old favorite toxic anxiety, tuna. Yes, you’ve likely already heard that your favorite sandwich filling is stuffed full of mercury and it’s slowly going to do you in. However, let’s have another look at the story, shall we? As the concentration of nasty chemicals and heavy metals in the waterways increases, so too do the levels of these same toxins in the creatures that live in those waters. And it does make sense, really. Apparently, tuna fish is especially good at absorbing all that nasty stuff. And as a result of all the industrial mining activity and coal-fired power plants of which we humans are so very fond of, there are now excess amounts of mercury, arsenic, lead, tin, and all kinds of goodies floating about in the rivers, lakes, and seas on planet Earth.
Our bodies require minuscule amounts of various metals like zinc and iron, but others, especially in excess, are actually toxic to our delicate systems. So, this is bad news for fish and people alike. But don’t be alarmed. If you do start to experience fatigue, digestive distress, low mood, sore joints, blood sugar retention, reduced concentration, tingling sensations, or loss of balance, then you could be showing symptoms of metal poisoning. Of course, these are also symptoms of countless other illnesses and, in fact, just as likely a general modern life malaise. So, don’t go fretting just yet. Although levels of heavy metals in tuna are higher than is ideal, you’d still have to eat a whole lot of the stuff in order to be poisoned by it—well, probably, anyways.
There’s a whole load of information out there about fats and the kind of fats that we all need in our diets to keep our bodies healthy. Thinking in this field has changed from the idea that all fat is bad to the idea that there are actually good fats and bad fats. Margarine is made up of the sneakiest sorts of bad fats—hydrogenated oils, which are stuffed full of trans fats. And it’s these trans fats that will do all the worst things inside our feeble human meat suits. Trans fat raises bad cholesterol. Not only that, but it also rather rudely lowers good cholesterol and even makes blood platelets stickier. That is super bad news for your old ticker because it increases the risk of heart disease by a whole bunch.
For these fairly substantial reasons, it’s probably best to avoid all those naughty margarines with their hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Apparently, you can eat butter now though, so go ahead and do that again—fill up your boots or, you know, put it on your toast. Whatever pulls your plunker.
Like other culprits in the big old bad allergy lottery, shellfish can cause a range of fun and exciting death-making events within the human body. So let’s find out how this tasty food is actually trying to kill us all off now, shall we? Shellfish is another one of those things that’s basically healthy for most people most of the time anyway—except when it’s not. It sounds kind of ominous, I know, and it sort of is.
Apart from the allergy danger, which can cause all the usual swelling, restriction of airways, and inhibition of breathing followed by a bit of death, shellfish has some rather rude habits. Now, if we’re to believe the recent hype, there is a connection between the increased risk of ingestion of toxins like mercury and the consumption of seafood. And this is true to some extent; all marine life contains mercury. There is indeed mercury and other heavy metals to be found in all the waters of the earth, and this has increased in recent times as a result of human mess-making and pollution.
Again, this is only truly a risk to the most vulnerable of humans, like the youngest, oldest, or most poor in health. And it’s not recommended that any pregnant or nursing mothers should eat shellfish, as the ingestion of mercury can have effects on the nervous system of developing unborn babies and the very young. For most of us, however, we can continue to stuff ourselves silly at the all-you-can-eat crab buffet, but just not every day of the week.
And then, of course, the final way that it can kill you off doesn’t give you an allergy attack or mercury poisoning. It’s actually a super-efficient vehicle for all the fun food poisoning bugs. That’s right, eat a bad crustacean, and you may not live to tell the tale. These things just love to harbor such delights of salmonella, E. coli, hepatitis A, and other fun juicy stuff that they pick up from the water that’s contaminated by sewage.
Did you know that nutmeg has some trippy secrets? Well, I didn’t, so it was news to me. Nutmeg is actually so commonplace that it can be found in many pantries around the world, and for the most part, it’s used in making all kinds of delicious foods even more tasty. But if you happen to eat a whole bunch of it, you may have some side effects that you didn’t quite expect.
Nutmeg actually contains a chemical that’s found in many herbs and spices, but when consumed in quantity, it can make you high as a kite. Yes, that’s right. Nutmeg can actually give you psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, disorientation, and hyperexcitation. And to be honest, it’s quite difficult to actually eat enough of the stuff to get much effect. A nice jog around the park would probably give you as much of a high, most likely without the negative side effects of dizziness and nausea.
If eating a live octopus is something that you’re into, well, really, who am I and my pet guinea pig Twinkle to judge you? You should probably just acquaint yourself with some of the dangers of such a niche gastronomic experience. Though to begin with, when you’re munching on the live octopus—although, really, do you want to do this? It does seem rather rude to not even allow the animal the dignity of being dead first. However, if you do, then you need to chew properly, or else you’re going to get its suckers stuck in your throat on the way down.
Stuff stuck in your throat? Well, you may or may not be aware that can actually cause you to choke to death. Apparently, there’s a way to eat the octopus that makes it less dangerous but possibly not much less gross. The chef, quote-unquote, prepares the poor creature by removing the mucus from its tentacles and then cutting them into small pieces so that they can cause less of a choking hazard. And that’s all well and good, but it is still a live octopus. What are you doing with your life?
The Castor Bean
This is just stupidly dangerous, and frankly, I don’t think it’s something that anyone should be eating anyway. So let’s just all agree to just not, right? Castor beans are apparently what’s used to make castor oil, which was once sold to people for all sorts of ailments from constipation to skin complaints. It’s also used as a component in biodiesel and as an industrial lubricant. Should you really be ingesting it at all, though? Anyways, those beans that are used to make the oil are actually where ricin, one of the deadliest toxins on the planet, comes from. In fact, ricin is so terribly toxic to humans that it can wreak mass destruction on your intestines and can be fatal as well as give you neurological damage and ultimately a hideous, painful death. So if I were you, I would just avoid the castor bean altogether.
Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, but it’s also apparently dangerous. The fruit does need to be fully ripened because it contains some pretty nasty toxins that can actually kill you if you ingest them. So that’s why the fruit’s banned from being imported in the United States and is only available canned. This is one of those especially tricky foods that may be eaten when it’s ripe without any adverse effects. However, if you’re unfortunate enough to munch on it when it’s not properly ripe, then it can induce vomiting and in some very severe cases, actually, the poisoning can be fatal.
While I never knew just how many foods were trying to make me dead, it seems as though even old favorites that we as humans have been scoffing for a millennia have had deadly intentions this entire time.