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Sunday February 3, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday April 17, 2013 MYT 12:02:43 PM
by loh foon fong AND mugutan vanar
Exotic delicacy: Imported sea cucumber sold at one of the shops in Kota Kinabalu.
PETALING JAYA: Those who wish to consume the sea cucumber during Chinese New Year, considered a delicacy, should purchase it from a trusted source to avoid any poisoning, said Universiti Sains Malaysia's marine biologist Prof Dr Zulfigar Yasin.
He said that in recent years, some unscrupulous traders had mixed poisonous sea cucumbers with non-poisonous ones due to high demand.
“It is best to purchase them in wet condition as it is easier to differentiate them.
“And buy from people who are culturing them or from reputable sources,” he said when contacted.
Dr Zulfigar said that sea cucumber that were edible were usually larger in size.
“It is easier to identify an edible sea cucumber when bought fresh rather than dry,” he said.
However, he cautioned that the poisonous ones would look similar to the non-poisonous ones, which made it difficult for others to note the difference.
He said that he had seen people collecting poisonous ones along the Straits of Malacca and sold them to interested buyers.
“The very poisonous sea cucumber is the Holothuria atra species which is black in colour and has smooth skin,” he said, adding that in some Pacific islands, they were used to poison fish.
Dr Zulfigar said that holothurin poisoning was rare and difficult to be detected in the blood because the amount of poison was too minute, while poisoning could also happen when other contaminated shellfish were eaten together with the sea cucumber.
There were more than 100 common sea cucumber species in Malaysia and the Chinese consumed them as food while the Malays used them as medicine, he said.
The Chinese consume several species including many Stichopus species and the Holothuria scabra (or sandfish) while the Theleonata Ananas were valuable species, he said.
For the Malays, the Stichopus hermanii species was used as medicine as a drink or ointment, he added.
He said that many sea cucumbers were found in deep waters while some only came out of the reefs at night.
In KOTA KINABALU, a local sea cucumber wholesaler said in Sabah, about 20 species were harvested, processed and exported to restaurants in peninsula Malaysia.
“However, there are one or two species that we do not use as they are quite toxic,” he said, adding that most of their stock were obtained from Sabah's east coast Semporna.
The wholesaler, who only wanted to be identified as Qian, said lower grade sea cucumbers cost slightly over RM100 for each kilo while those of good quality could fetch up to between RM800 and over RM1,000.
Chinese medicine shop owner Paul Huang said that most buyers would consume sea cucumber for better blood circulation as well as to ease joint pains.
Two die after eating poisonous sea cucumber
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