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  • Snails are off the menu

     
    A 34-year-old man admitted himself to Beijing Friendship Hospital in June complaining of nausea (呕吐) and unbearable headaches. Doctors rushed to identify this mystery sickness, and soon found the root of the problem in a snail (螺).

    Originally from South America, the Amazonian snail (亚马逊螺) was imported by restaurants in the late 1980's. It soon became a fashionable dish.

    Known as "Fushouluo", the snail was given its name as it was believed to bring good luck and longevity (长寿). But, the snail may also cause a painful disease, if eaten raw (生的) or partly cooked.

    In Beijing, the number of people complaining of these symptoms (症状) had risen to 131 by September 5. The one thing that united the cases was that they had all eaten at the Shuguo Yanyi chain of restaurants.

    By serving half-cooked snail meat to customers, the restaurants had not ensured a dangerous parasite (寄生虫) in the meat had been killed.

    Ten days after they ate the snails, the diners became ill. The worms have attacked the diners' nervous systems, causing fever, headaches and muscle (肌肉) pain.

    The Ministry of Health punished the restaurants at the root of the outbreak for putting diners' health at such risk. All dishes containing uncooked snail meat were banned. Doctors said that cooking the snail at high temperatures for up to five minutes should be enough to kill the parasites they contain. However, anything less than thoroughly (彻底地) boiling the snails may put consumer's health at risk. Freshwater crabs, shrimp, fish and shellfish may have the same health risk if not thoroughly cooked.

    Recently, health inspectors visited 2,000 restaurants in Beijing and found no one serving uncooked seafood.

    Sadly, the problem of dangerous seafood is not just found in Beijing. Guangzhou has recently reported a similar case.

    Fortunately, the illness is fully treatable if found within ten days, according to doctors in Beijing. Hopefully, the case will be a warning to food lovers to be careful before they risk eating raw seafood.

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