KLUANG: The 83-year-old woman who lost her life after consuming puffer fish and her husband actually had no idea they were eating something that contained deadly toxins.
Their daughter Ng Ai Lee, 51, said her 84-year-old father purchased the fish unknowingly from a fishmonger last Saturday as there were only a few selections left.
Despite having never heard of puffer fish or “drumstick fish” as it is known in Chinese, her father proceeded to buy it from the fishmonger, who visits their village in Kampung Chamek here weekly in a van.
“My parents have been buying fish from the same fishmonger for many years so my father did not think twice about it.
“He would not have knowingly bought something so deadly to eat and put their lives in danger,” she told The Star.
Her mother, Lim Siew Guan, fried the fish for lunch on the same day and began experiencing breathing difficulties and shivers while her father started showing similar symptoms about an hour later.
Ng said her elder brother, who stays in a different house in the same village, rushed them to the hospital.
“My other brother and I are staying in Kuala Lumpur.
“After finding out about the incident from our family chat group, we decided to rush back to Kluang to see our parents.
“Unfortunately, we were not even halfway into our journey when my elder brother informed us that our mother had passed away that evening.
“I was devastated. The pain and emotions that I felt at the time were indescribable because it was just too unexpected.
“The last time I saw my mother was when they came to Kuala Lumpur and stayed with me for a week after the Chinese New Year celebrations.
“I was planning to return to our village to see them next month during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays,” said Ng, who is the chief finance officer of a private company in the capital.
Her mother’s death was identified as food poisoning with neurological manifestation resulting in respiratory failure and irregular heart rate, possibly due to toxin ingestion from consuming the fish.
She was laid to rest at the Chamek Chinese cemetery yesterday.
Ng said her father is still in a coma at the intensive care unit and the hospital is trying to treat the infections in his body.
“I am prepared for the worst because the doctor told us that even if he is able to pull through the ordeal, he might not be the same any more, due to his old age,” she said.
From this tragic episode, Ng is asking that the government regulate the sale of puffer fish.
“I do not intend to blame anyone. I hope my parents’ experience can create more awareness among the public about consuming such fish or food with high levels of toxins.
“It is frustrating to know that people knowingly consume puffer fish. Do not take it for granted that nothing will happen to you,” she said.
When contacted, Johor health and unity committee chairman Ling Tian Soon said puffer fish could be deadly unless properly cleaned as it contains potent toxins which causes severe illness and even death.
He said in Japan, only highly qualified chefs, who know how to remove the toxins, are allowed to serve the fish but there are no such regulations in Malaysia.
“The public is advised to avoid buying and consuming puffer fish as one wrong move from the untrained hand could result in the flesh being tainted by potent toxins.
“Similar cases have happened before. It is better for consumers to stick to the types of fish they are familiar with,” he said.
Asked about the regulation and enforcement of the law against the sale of puffer fish, Ling said such matters were under the purview of the Federal Government.
However, he said the state government would look into the matter soon.