Photo/IllutrationA package containing a piece of pufferfish liver, top right, was sold at a supermarket in Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture. (Provided by Aichi Prefecture)

  • Photo/Illustraion

GAMAGORI, Aichi Prefecture--A supermarket here apologized for selling packages of pufferfish meat containing liver, a product banned by the health ministry because of its potentially lethal toxicity.

All five packages were accounted after the Aichi prefectural government issued an alert to customers of the possibly poisoned products.

The alert sent out on Jan. 15 urged whoever bought the packs: “Do not eat them and return them to the supermarket.”

The Super Tatsuya supermarket revealed that it had been selling the product for a long time, believing it was safe for consumption.

One buyer contacted the Toyokawa Public Health Center, saying “a package of pufferfish purchased from a supermarket today contains pufferfish liver.”

Authorities checked the package and confirmed the presence of the banned liver.

The buyers of four packs, including the one who alerted the center, have contacted the store.

As for the remaining package, the supermarket president told The Asahi Shimbun on Jan. 16 that he received a phone call from the buyer, saying the contents had been eaten, but everyone was “OK.”

“I am very sorry,” the president, 77, said. “We will never sell any pufferfish again.”

Pufferfish are known to have poisonous livers. Some varieties can be deadly if not treated or prepared properly.

A staff member in charge of the supermarket’s fish department explained to Aichi prefectural authorities that the product sold contained the liver of “yorito fugu,” or sphoeroides pachygaster.

“The toxicity (of yorito fugu’s liver) is not high, and I never thought of it as poisonous,” the employee was quoted as saying.

Yorito fugu can be found from Hokkaido to southern Kyushu, according to the Toba Aquarium in Toba, Mie Prefecture. An adult fish measures about 25 centimeters long, and larger ones can grow to more than 40 cm.

According to a fish market in Gamagori, locals in the central Japan area refer to yorito fugu as “chochin fugu.” Its liver was once commonly eaten in miso soup or hot pot.

Nonetheless, the health ministry has banned sales of pufferfish liver, regardless of the species.

The Aichi prefectural government inspected the supermarket on Jan. 16 for possible violations of the food hygiene law.