Secretive Osaka restaurant suspends business in poisonous pufferfish probe

A pair of tora fugu, or tiger blowfish
A pair of tora fugu, or tiger blowfish (ganso-onsentorahugu.com)

OSAKA (TR) – There’s something fishy in Osaka.

Investigative sources have revealed that a members-only chain of restaurants is under scrutiny for illegally serving the innards of a poisonous blowfish to customers, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 31).

On Monday, the Consumer and Environmental Protection Division of the Osaka Prefectural Police raided a branch of Osaka Tora Fugu no Kai, located in Higashisumiyoshi Ward, for having served course meals containing the liver of a tora fugu, or tiger blowfish, in sliced (sashimi) form in January. The outlet halted operations after the search.

There have been no reports of customers becoming sick after consuming the fish. However, investigators are questioning the manager of the restaurant. An employee confirmed with the Yomiuri that liver was served.

With the liver and various other internal organs of fugu containing the deadly poison Tetrodotoxin, a license is required to serve the flesh of the fish in Japan. Offering the liver and organs in any form is prohibited in under law.

To eat the liver, customers will typically make special arrangements with a restaurant — but there can be severe consequences.

Last year, five diners at a restaurant in Wakayama Prefecture showed symptoms of poisoning after consuming the liver from fugu, according to Wakayama Broadcasting System. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that approximately 50 people fall victim to poisoning via fugu annually, with several of them succumbing to the toxin.

The Osaka chain has four branches that operate on a membership system in which the addresses and phone numbers for the restaurants are not made available to the public. For directions to the restaurants, a password must be entered on its Web site.

According to the Yomiuri, the chain’s outlets are frequented by entertainers, athletes and politicians.

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