HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Are there foods you won't eat because you consider them too dangerous?

...either because of the mercury level, the threat of e coli or mad cow disease, mercury poisoning, or whatever other health hazard they may pose?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Fugu is one of those calculated risk foods that I have no interest in trying.

    I also passed on a restaurant in Xian, China that specializes in scorpion dishes. Roasted on a skewer with soy sauce is one thing, but chasing it around with chopsticks in a little wooden box and then biting into it without getting stung is just too stupid for words.

    Raw fruits and vegetables in China and Mexico should be regarded with great caution.


    9 Replies
    1. re: Chefpaulo

      I have no intention of eating wild fugu, as with you it's a calculated risk that doesn't seem at all worth it to me, but I'm quite curious about farmed fugu, which is raised in an environment without the toxin-producing bacteria and is thus safe to eat.

      1. re: Chefpaulo

        I've only had fugu once and it wasn't anything special. It's very similar to fluke. I don't think you're missing much at all.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          I've dined on fugu many times. There are many fugu restaurants in Japan. The notion that eating it is a "calculated" risk by some people is amusing, but it certainly makes for an entertaining NPR story or Simpson's episode.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            I've tried fugu once and agree with Miss Needle that it wasn't anything exceptional. I thought it was quite bland and there was other types of sashimi out there that are sweeter and tastier.

            1. re: bdachow

              It's not a delicacy because of taste, but because of its' texture and consistency. Most Japanese consider sashimi the best preparation of fugu.

              1. re: Silverjay

                Ah, well the exoticism of mouth numbing fugu really doesn't make up for the lack of taste unfortunately, for me at least.

          2. re: Chefpaulo

            I have eaten plenty of raw fruits (how else do you eat them?) in China without any problems. Wash them thoroughly and take the skin off.

            1. re: PeterL

              just be sure to wash in potable water.

              strawberries once in south korea. so sweet, tasty, beautiful. the entire office out sick
              for 3 days. not a good thing.

            2. re: Chefpaulo

              But raw fruits and vegs can be washed and disinfected.

            3. When I was a kid I used to gleefully eat the little white bit in the base of the lamb chops we had for dinner... I had no idea it was the spinal cord! I'd probably still be happy to eat it because I remember it's being delicious, but now I know about the danger involved in anything to do with the central nervous system I'd never touch it again! And I'm never going to eat fugu or (true) wild mushrooms because you're putting your life into the hands of the cook and I have no ambition to die because somebody couldn't tell the difference between a benevolent mushroom and a deadly one.

              11 Replies
              1. re: Kajikit

                I don't have a lamb chop in front of me so I'm trying to picture what little white bit you're talking about. And more importantly, what is the "danger involved in anything to do with the central nervous system"? Could you provide more info please?

                1. re: c oliver

                  Prions (the causative agent in Mad Cow--a misfolded protein) are more likely found in CNS tissue.

                  1. re: Bryn

                    And does cooking not make it alright? And are we actually having MC in the U.S.? Or anywhere else? Not being critical, just not something I'm knowledgeable about.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      No cooking doesn't affect them. Mad cow from cows is rare in the US, it's slightly more common (but still extremely rare) in wild meat like venison, but it's called something different depending on the animal. I only know Canada's methods of control of Mad cow not The USA. The severity of the disease is why it's so well known, but I wouldn't worry about eating steak or ground beef. Head Cheese I'm not taking the risk although it is a very small risk. I think the FDA probably has a better explanation of what level of risk each cut is.

                      1. re: Bryn

                        usa cases are rare because you don't hear about them.shoot shovel shut up

                        1. re: howlin

                          That's the Way the Alberta Ranchers deal with it, but I meant Human cases.

                          1. re: Bryn

                            no thats the way we should have dealt with it in the beginning before rcalf turned a simple case into something ugly and political

                      2. re: c oliver

                        As Bryn said below, cooking won't neutralize prions; they're actually proteins folded into a more stable shape, so unless you're planning on burning the food into charcoal, it won't neutralize them. And the bad news is that Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (ie, prion disease in humans) can be acquired from food, notably from venison.

                        In the 1990's there was a big scare about C-J, due to truly disgusting practices in raising beef in the UK, US and Canada leading to cows with prion disease sometimes finding their way into the food supply. The situation was particularly bad in the UK. Fast-forward to the end of the 2000's and the feared epidemic of C-J never arrived, thank goodness, and all those Britains who ate all that meat, head cheese, oxtail, etc., from contaminated cows have brains for brains, not jelly. So empirically it looks like there's not much to worry about from cattle.

                        1. re: tmso

                          yup, i've read and studied way too much about creutzfeld-Jakob disease to take any kind of chances.....

                          1. re: kubasd

                            No, it seems you've only "read and studied" way too much fear-mongering on the subject. As I said above, if the fear-mongers were right, there would have been an epidemic of C-J following the mad-cow scares. The good news is, they were wrong.

                  2. re: Kajikit

                    That part isn't spinal cord it is Marrow very tasty indeed.

                  3. Yes.
                    Rattlesnakes moving at the speed of sound.

                    Way, way too dangerous.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: slewfoot

                      Edit: old thread. Oops.
                      That said, as someone who studies new diseases:
                      rats and bats, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
                      ANY raw meat, fruit or veg in SE Asia

                    2. I stopped eating red meat due to the mad cow outbreak (I was about twelve at the time, I think) and stopped eating other meats when avian flu broke (I was in what I considered to be high-risk areas). I haven't eaten red meat in over a decade, and in the last five years have only had poultry once that I can recall (as a houseguest in Mexico). So now I don't have to worry about things like scorpions and monkey brains. They're non-issues.

                      In terms of fruits and vegetables, I'll eat just about anything. I ate a lot of raw fruit in Mexico (I was there for six months) and didn't get sick. I also ate a lot of nieves (shaved ice) from the cart outside my Mexican workplace. I'm sure the ice wasn't made from purified water, but again I didn't get sick. That being said, I did get all the proper hepatitis vaccinations before I went.

                      1. I don't drink tap water because I can taste the metals in it. And I was always taught not to because of the pipes.

                        1. Liver, kidneys... any organ that filters waste products does not seem fit to eat. No matter how healthy Grandma says it is. (Sorry Nana!)

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: mcel215

                              Double that for me. Besides, I worked in ORs for so long, when I see organ meats I think about them in somebody, floodlights aiming down, and the smells of organs transcend species, I can't stand the smell of hearts, or livers or kidneys, and I'll never in my life knowingly eat brains, I automatically smell the formalin. Too many similarities there.

                              But I do love me some chicken gizzards.

                          1. Pork that is not cooked all the way.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: RetiredChef

                              I cook pork tenderloing to medium all the time. Never a problem here

                              1. re: chileheadmike

                                I've never known anyone to get sick from Mett (a german dish of chopped raw pork). I'm sure it was a very bad idea to eat it in 1600, but in modern times it's just a question of having a clean, safe foodchain.

                                1. re: chileheadmike

                                  I understand and have no problems with others doing it – I love sashimi, beef capriccio, cook chicken till it has just a hint of pink left, but can’t do it with pork, won’t even eat pork medium well.

                                  It’s totally mental and not very rational looking at statistics and current feeding of swine on farms. But I think it comes from seeing some people in Africa suffering and dying from trichinosis many years ago.

                                2. re: RetiredChef

                                  Are you afraid of trichinosis? It's really not an issue any more.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Yup and I fully agree with you about trichinosis, as I said it's all mental, just can't get myself to do it.

                                    Some people have an irrational fear of flying I have an irrational fear of eating under-cooked pork.

                                    They say admitting it is a good sign – so give me some credit – lol.

                                    1. re: RetiredChef

                                      I hold tightly to MY irrational fears and nobody better try to reason me out of them :) Fear of heights is mine.

                                        1. re: RetiredChef

                                          Trichinosis may not be a problem iin commercial meats but it is out there. I have a chunk of walrus in my freezer (I do, I really do) that is brought out for show. Arctic sea mammals remain infected to a disturbingly high degree.

                                          1. re: foodiesnorth

                                            You can kill those worms by extended freezing. I don't know the time and temp off the top of my head. Where did you get Walrus in Edmonton?

                                            1. re: Bryn

                                              The moniker says it all...I spend a lot of time cruising around the far north. No walrus that I know of in Edmonton...but lots of caribou, musk ox and char around for purchase (Buffalo Valley Variety Meats and Sobey's Urban Fresh both sell all three)

                                3. I don't think so. While I may limit my ingestion of certain things for various reasons, I can't think of something I would absolutely say no to unless I was pregnant, had an immune condition, etc. If somebody cooked a factory-farmed pig rare, I'd probably say no. But if it was a "humane" pig, sure. And I have eaten pork rare on various occasions with no issues. However, I'm fortunate and haven't seen people die of trichinosis like Retired Chef. That must have been awful.

                                  1. Brains and related matter.

                                    1. I don't think there are things normally available that are too dangerous to eat occasionally. Not he same as a steady diet of them of course. Arteries after eating Bologna daily for decades?

                                      I do have "ick factor" issues with brains.

                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: Akitist

                                        I love fish, but would NEVER, EVER touch Escolar, aka Hawaiian Butterfish.

                                        Read up on it here. It's not pretty!


                                        1. re: 94Bravo

                                          I would never eat oxtails because I have read that mad cow disease would most likely be in that part of the cow. It all has to do with prions, and I don't understand it, but apparently that end of the animal would be most likely to be infected(?) affected(?).

                                          I have greatly, greatly reduced our consumption of red meat in the last year. But now I keep reading of the danger eating tuna, because of mercury. So I guess in a couple of years I will be vegetarian?

                                          1. re: 94Bravo

                                            OMG!!! That is disgusting, thanks for making me read it in the morning!
                                            I think I tried this fish a few times, but I'm done now...

                                            1. re: mschow

                                              I'm pretty sure that what a lot of sushi places in my area call "white tuna" is actually butterfish.

                                              As far as what I won't eat: I usually avoid shark and Chilean sea bass because of mercury.

                                            2. re: 94Bravo

                                              This is one of my favorite fish in sushi and sashimi. No leakage whatsoever. Leave it all for me, then!

                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                Yeah, the wikipedia page makes it seem like people have way way overreacted to the laxative effects of this fish. I'm not that into the texture actually...it's not firm enough for me, i think (though I don't think it is slimy). I've only had it once though. It's not on my avoid list, but I doubt I'll get it again anytime soon.

                                                1. re: megmosa

                                                  Hmmm. The whole sliminess issue now makes me think that what I've been eating ("white tuna / butterfish") may be something completetly different than Escolar. The fish I'm talking about has a fairly firm texture, but kind of a melt in your mouth feel; the flavor is like a mix between salmon and tuna, if that makes any sense...

                                                  There was a whole 'nother thread a while agoon butterfish/white tuna in sushi bars, but I didn't feel smarter than before reading it '-). Given how permissive the use of either name for a variety of fish is, who knows what I'm eating.

                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                    I've bought saku blocks of escolar several times. No sliminess issues. A very clean soft white fish

                                              2. re: 94Bravo

                                                I have no problem eating escolar in small portions. In fact, I had it at Le Bernardin the other night. It was a little fishy tasting from the oil but have also had it here in Bermuda where everyone at the table agreed it was really good (not fishy at all).

                                                1. re: bdachow

                                                  Hey BDACHOW - I get it fresh...and yes, it is caught locally!

                                                  1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                    Thanks BGG, yeah, had it up at Barracuda for the first time and was really good. I thought the preparation was better than at Le Bernardin because it didn't have any fishy smell and taste to it.

                                              3. I love oxtails...Escolar has a smelly odor & slimy texture before cooking, yuck! I wouldn't eat any type of bugs (knowingly), including scorpions, etc.; no snake meat, guinea pigs (which my children had as pets), dog or cat meat, or mercury laden fish...Sorry Andrew Zimmern!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                                  I eat Escolar weekly (husband is a fisherman) and I have never had any issues with Escolar, if it is smelly and slimy it is bad!! Fresh Escolar has a smell of the ocean and even though it has a high oil content, it is not slimy. With anything eat in moderation.

                                                2. My husband loves eel sushi. I won't eat eels. Are there any true safety issues? I have no idea. But there's a very, very old ballad in which a man dies after his girlfriend feeds him fried eels. As soon as he tells his mother what he had for lunch, she knows immediately that he's gonna die. Evidently somewhere along the line people thought eels were poison. And I've heard that song a lot longer than I've been around people eating eel sushi with no apparent ill effects. It ain't rational, I know. But I'm not gonna eat them.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: revsharkie

                                                    Next to last sentence? I'm totally with you. They are MY irrationalities. Leave them alone :)

                                                    1. re: revsharkie

                                                      Tomatoes are also poisonous. Europeans knew that after they arrived from the New World.

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        Sorry they don't agree with you, Sam, but this decendent of New World emigres loves them. Hey, I'm still here and red sauce with clams is simmering on the range. Join me for linguini?


                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          Ripe tomatoes aren't poisonous, but green ones contain the alkaloid solanine. If you like fried green tomatoes, you should limit the amount you eat per day.

                                                          1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                            I was actually making a joke about European attitudes and beliefs after contact with the New World.

                                                        2. re: revsharkie

                                                          jfood loves eel. he always trades his uni for eel. sometimes he is able to get a 3:1 trade.

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            "I like eels
                                                            And the way
                                                            They feels,
                                                            But not as meals." Ogden Nash
                                                            I love eels as meals, smoked to sashimied and every dish in between. We ate lots of eel sashimi in Seoul last summer.

                                                            Revsharkie, don't watch the film, The Tin Drum.

                                                        3. Pine Nuts.
                                                          The thought of everything tasting bad for a week or so is horrifying.

                                                          1. Anything that is marked with "DANGER" on it, I would consider it too dangerous to try. Other than that, I'm willing to try just about anything (although that doesn't mean I won't be slightly grossed out - I can get past that eventually.) And yes, that means that I would try the infamous puffer fish in the hands of a skilled cook.

                                                            1. US commodity beef. I will not eat a commodity beef burger, period. Nor will I eat any meat from animals treated with antibiotics. Sadly, I know way too much about this.

                                                              1. Raw oysters. Having worked for a health department I have seen the reports of what vibrio can do to a person.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: swamp

                                                                  Same fear here. I know that vibrio-related illness is rare and that the bad complications are even rarer, but the bad complications are truly horrendous indeed.

                                                                2. Wild mushrooms. I had a friend who loved to go gather them and he was always putting them in his food. Then he became so intent on the rest of us eating them too that I had to put the friendship on ice for awhile. I had visions of a fungoid Jonestown event...

                                                                  1. I won't eat anything made with raw eggs, like Caesar dressing made the old way. I've suffered through a salmonella infection before and it ain't pretty.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                      Quite the opposite here. I've had salmonella a couple of times (not from raw eggs, though), and there's no way I'd ever give up the joy that raw eggs add to many things; the risk is just too small, IMO, and the benefits worth it.

                                                                      1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                        I've eaten raw and almost raw eggs for about 40 years and never gotten sick from that. I got salmonella from Peter Pan peanut butter (two jars missed the recall in Rio). If I tried to avoid anything that could possibly make me sick, I guess I couldn't eat anything. Or drink for that matter either. Everybody chooses how they want to live. I choose to eat damn near everything.

                                                                      2. I used to eat plenty of raw oysters dredged from directly behind a bar in New Orleans- about $3.00/dozen. I rationalized this risky endeavor by convincing myself that the alcohol in the beer I was drinking would kill any nasties... Every time I get sick, I blame it on those raw oyster fests! Not to mention all those sucked crawfish and shrimp heads...

                                                                        1. Short answer to the OP's question is "no".

                                                                          Of course I'm cautious about food - particularly in places like buffets where kitchen hygiene might not be as good as it should. Also, in my part of the world, the environmental health agencies publish online information about their inspections of individual food establishments - it helps to ID the places you don't want to eat at or buy takeaway from.

                                                                          But as to dangers from individual foodstuffs, I take the general view that by the time a hazard is into the public domain, the authorities are generally dealing with it - the so-called "mad cow epidemic" in the UK being a good example.

                                                                          1. I don't eat anything with ground beef in it, ever, unless I know the cook or restaurant has ground the beef themselves. I have read too much about the meat industry to feel comfortable eating commercial ground beef.

                                                                            I grew up in a beef-free household so I don't feel that I am missing out on anything. If I grew up on it and liked the stuff, then I would probably take the risk and have a hamburger or a lasagna at any old establishment. But since I don't care for it enough, I am happy to avoid it.

                                                                            1. Highly processed food.

                                                                              1. C-rations. I nearly died while eating them. Spam too.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                  Seriously? My father was a "Federal Employee". Were C-rations really bad? He is (beyond) mum.

                                                                                  1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                                    I got a bullet hole through my canned spaghetti while it was in my pack.

                                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                      And the pack protected your ...
                                                                                      Rats. I feel so bad for current enlisted.

                                                                                      'Keg, the gym at HQ was really nice (although military just ran the perimeter at lunch). Glad to hear you are safe & sound, years later. You might (rejoice!) be happy to note that lunch at the agency was really good in the early 80's (when my dad retired, and I moved on). Canned spaghetti sounds really gross compared to the yummy pasta confections available at HQ cafeteria. Or anything the operatives endured. I'm glad to hear it save your life.

                                                                                      And I didn't even get to have sex w/the president, like other interns! Waaaah!