View Full Version : Edible Fish Warning for Visitors
10-12-2004, 11:49 AM
I am sharing this with you since it was recently highlighted in our local newspaper, and we have seen it firsthand. it is a fish warning for visitors that may be tempted to order a fish that can put the hurt on your evening.
The fish is called Walu, aka Butterfish". The Hawaiian's have another name for it which is Maku'u (roughly translated- "Exploding Intestines"). Restaurants are required by state law to warn people about it's "exlax" type effects, but many do not. It is a fish that only affects about half that eat it, and you can even eventually build up an intolerance, however, if you are affected, the experience can ruin your night around town.
Just figured I'd warn people. We found out the hard way about it. My wife's birthday dinner was had at one of our finer restaurants, but the rest of the evening was spent on the Lu'a (toilet). The article came out a few days later and we figured out what it was.
If your willing to take a 50/50 chance, it isn't a bad fish, but the heavy undigestible oils in it are supposedly what makes the problem really profound.
10-12-2004, 01:44 PM
What restaurant was that? Did you complain to them? If they knew of the fish's effect when eaten then it's like intentionally poisoning everyone who ordered it, if they were unaware then they should be made to know better. Almost everyone who bottomfishes in Hawaii knows about that fish and it's castor oil effect when eaten. So even though it grows pretty big they usually throw it back when caught. The restaurant probably bought it from some fishermen who knew about it (but have no conscience) because even the auction blocks will not buy or sell fish that are unsafe or poor sellers such as walu, at least the ones on Oahu will not. I know of several guys who caught one and thought they could just eat a little bit at a time but they still got sick. Japanese restaurants in Hawaii usually have a miso butterfish dish but that is a different type of fish that is not caught here locally.
Well, I hope you and your family are feeling better. Just to let you know that another fish that some places advertise as "Hawaiian butterfish" is the Roi which is known for ciguatera so just gotta be careful and make sure it's not anyone of those fish.
10-12-2004, 01:55 PM
When I lived in Corona del Mar, CA, there was a local restaurant, Oysters, that used to sell a fish called escolar. They always warned you when ordering that the oils in the fish gave some people digestive problems. I ordered it anyway, found it to be delicious and had no problems. I think this is the same or similar fish as the "butterfish" of which you speak. See http://www.health.gov.au/internet/wcms/Publishing.nsf/Content/cda-pubs-cdi-2002-cdi2603-htm-cdi2603i.htm (includes pictures of fish)
10-12-2004, 02:53 PM
eventually build up an intolerance
Is it possible to build an intolerance? I thought it worked the other way around :D
10-12-2004, 05:10 PM
Thanks for the proofread Undertow.....my bad!!!!
Yes, escolar is the same type of fish. According to the article, many restaurants "casually" forget to warn to people. I guess one lady had filed a lawsuit which is why the state requires them to warn you of possible intolerance (yes, the right word, Undertow). but think about it, you have your menu all set, and your reciting the nights specials and you have to say, "Comes lightly seared with a mushroom glaze and it is $19.95, oh and by the way, you may end up crapping your guts out!"
10-12-2004, 06:23 PM
I used to work in a resturant in Lahaina which we served 'Miso Glazed Walu'. Me and my brother found this out for ourselves after eating it all the time. The fish tastes good but very oily. So oily, it won't stick to the grill. Honestly, the fish is good , but it will creep on you right after!
10-12-2004, 08:39 PM
From the Maui News:
By HARRY EAGAR
The Maui News
KIHEI -- Which sounds better on the menu of a pricy, white-tablecloth restaurant? Hawaiian escolar or Ex-Lax fish? It's the same fish. The one that is forbidden in Japan (a country that celebrates the often-deadly fugu or blowfish), discouraged in Britain and blamed for epidemics of diarrhea in Australia. The same one that was temporarily banned in the 1990s by the Food and Drug Administration but is now promoted as gourmet eating across the United States and on Maui. Sylvia Hewitt of Maui had an unpleasant encounter with the fish -- named walu in Hawaiian -- at Nick's Fish Market, and again at the Maui Onion Grill at the Renaissance Wailea Resort. She did not suspect it was the fish until learning about it in The Maui News earlier this month, and she says she definitely was not warned beforehand that it can cause acute distress in an uncertain but apparently substantial number of people who eat it. A lot of people like walu. In England it is sold (illegally) as expensive (and endangered) Chilean sea bass. Jeff Hanson, owner of Eskimo Candy Seafood in Kihei, says that he'd never heard of the fish until a couple of customers asked if he could get it for them. "We serve it occasionally in our market," he says. "Some people are kind of sensitive, so we kind of tell people." But his employees didn't tell me when I ordered it a couple of weeks ago. Executive chef George Gomes of Nick's and Sorrento's on the Beach said through a company spokeswoman that when it occasionally shows up on the menu, customers are cautioned. But Hewitt says she never was, and it ruined what was supposed to be a special (and expensive) night out. Hawaiians knew better. They have a word, maku`u, which is defined as explosive, uncontrollable bowel dischargee caused by eating great quantities of walu. What constitutes a great quantity is undefined, but for some people it doesn't take much. An Austin, Texas, food writer, Jill Posey-Smith, has been on a crusade to ban escolar for two years, since becoming sick for several days after eating it in a restaurant in St. Louis. Other foodies, like Jen Karetnick of Miami New Times, have also publicized the dangers of eating walu -- or escolar, white tuna, Hawaiian butter fish, rudderfish and ruddercod or cocco, other market names for fish from a family with the unmarketable family name of snake mackerels. Alton Miyasaka of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Aquatic Resources Division says, "We don't regulate their sale," but the Department of Health could. "I would say," says Miyasaka, "that it's probably not good business to sell food that makes people sick." Eating fish in Hawaii carries a certain risk. Ciguatera poisoning of reef fish is a problem at times and places, and there is no way a consumer can tell whether a fish has picked up the poison except by eating it, Miyasaka says. (There is a test, but it costs more than the fish is worth, so nobody uses it. The official policy is, chance um.) The Department of Health considers walu "not a poison." Laura Lott of the Communications Office explains that in 1994, the FDA issued a directive banning the sale of escolar, but in 1997 the FDA revised its views, "stating that no regulatory action will be supported based on the purgative effects of the fish." Since then, DOH has advised local dealers to be careful of proper temperature control, since walu is a histamine/scombrotoxin-forming species; and to pay attention to portion control and proper method of cooking. DOH forbids the use of "Hawaiian butter fish" as being misleading. Gomes says it would normally be grilled and accompanied by an acid
(citrus-based) sauce, to help drain out the indigestible oil. The fish, whose most common common name is oilfish, is full of waxy esters, which humans cannot handle. Australian health authorities have reported several instances where large numbers of people purged, apparently as a result of eating oilfish. (There are two species, found in deep tropical waters worldwide; the Hawaiian species is Ruvettus pretiosus.) "It does have that reputation," says Miyasaka. Brooks Takenaka, a manager at United Fishing Agency, which runs the Honolulu fish auction, says fishermen target walu here, along with all other bottomfish. In other places, oilfish is a by-catch of tuna hunts. Local fishermen call it the Ex-Lax fish, he says. But "we don't toss 'em out." Walu is "pretty highly priced" and available every day at the Honolulu auction. It brings from $2 to $4 a pound, sometimes a little more, at wholesale.
Size and availability vary with the season. Landed fish in Hawaii range from four or five pounds to 20 or 30, although oilfish sold in Mexican markets can get much bigger, more than 100 pounds. Right now is a low period for oilfish, says Takenaka. Takenaka says he considers it "a matter of responsibility for people who are in the know" to pass on information about what they sell. "Number one, it is a fine line how much people can eat." Hanson compares walu to aku. He does not go through the Honolulu auction, he says, and gets his fish direct from Maui and Big Island fishermen. That means he isn't offered much aku, but he has customers who ask for it. And, he says, they want it fresh. He knows that health authorities recommend freezing aku, to kill parasites that can transfer to humans. But his customers wouldn't buy it if he froze it, he says. "People eat what they want to eat." Posey-Smith has another take on the matter. At her Web page devoted to damning escolar (www.twistyfaster.com), she writes: "Sometimes seafood wholesalers, wrestling with thorny principles of supply and demand, feel unburdened by scruple. The chilling fact is, they just make stuff up in order to sell fish." When she protested in St. Louis, the retailer told her that it was the "Gulf escolar" that caused the problem, and he sold only "Hawaiian escolar," the safe kind. In reality, Posey-Smith says, it's all the same, whether it's called scourfish or Hawaiian butter fish. Her final word on the subject: "Remember to question fish authority."
10-12-2004, 08:55 PM
Howzit Bucket One,
When Dr. Hokama, the UH professor and developer of the present day ciguatera test kits, was developing the ciguatera test he conducted years of research to try and determine if cig. was seasonal, if it varied around the islands and what fish carried higher toxic quantities. He found out that cig. is not seasonal, it varied among species as some had never tested positive and what was once thought to be cig. poison may have been food poisoning from improperly chilled or handled fish because the victim's syptoms were not the same as a person with cig. poison. As for locations it was inconclusive since much of the fish samples came from local fishermen and since some areas of the islands produce more fish then tests results could only be compared on a percentage scale. The one common factor was that the size of the fish, not just the species, determined the toxic quantity.
Tested fish such as the ulua (from ceratin areas), kahala (amberjack), roi and kole always showed a trace amount of ciguatera with the larger fish having a higher quantity. Some people argue that the present ciguatera tests detect all toxins in a fish but during Dr. Hokama's ciguatera research years my cousin was one of his lab assistants and this what I was told. "During their research, whenever a sample tested positive, they would break down the sample to try and identify the exact toxin and in the fish previously mentioned they would ALWAYS find at least a trace amount of ciguatera".
It was found that ciguatera toxin build up within a person is accumalative and irreversible. Everyone has a different tolerance level to the toxin, the size of a person is not a factor but young children and older people are more likely to become ill or more violently ill from eating a "hot" fish than someone else. It is still thought that it is because a young child's immune system is not as strong as an adult and an older person may already have a high cig. build up in them. Being that the cig. accumalation is irreversible, once someone comes down with "ciguatera poisoning" they will be susceptible to it every time they eat a high toxic fish and each episode may be worse than the last. The most severe cases I know of (friends, family and co-workers) have resulted in the victim being hospitalized, out of work for months, nerves all screwed up and still (years later) unable to drink beer or eat certain foods without becoming ill.
With this in mind the roi you ate may have had ciguatera but not enough to make you sick. But look at it this way, now you have a permanent souvenir from Hawaii in you. If you come back again I'll take you to one of the uppity Japanese or Korean bars where they have special chefs brought in from Japan to make fugu soup. These chefs were supposedly trained and certified by the Japanese government to prepare this type of soup. The soup is made from fugu (balloon fish) and if incorrectly prepared is fatal, with death occurring within minutes as it completely shuts down your body's organs. The cost for a small bowl is about $40-$50 but I've seen some people eat several at one sitting. I tried it once after watching everyone else eat it and the soup was not only very good but it gives you a buzz (probably the poison).
10-13-2004, 02:46 AM
Isn't Walu called Oilfish? I don't think it is the butterfish used in Miso Butterfish but a cheap copy.
As for ciguatera, fishes like the Roi, Kole, Ulua, Barracuda, and amberjack seem to have a higher chance of having ciguatoxin. I'm sure I've eaten my share of toxin. I have a friend who use to eat a lot of reef fish, and after eating a goatfish (weke) she got sick. Now she is very sensitive and has to stay away from reef fish for like 6 or 7 years. If she eats a fish with just a tad of toxin, she gets flu like symptoms with nausea and vomitting.
I use the cig test kits for my bigger fish from "hotter" spots. I've thrown away jacks, barracuda, and spotted grouper for testing positive.
10-15-2004, 04:19 PM
this strikes me as hilarious , because i was in maui with my gf a few months ago .
we ate this little place in kihei , my gf who loves seafood ordered the walu . The nice lady told us it was a real good local fish and its quit buttery . We thought great no problem , sounds good .
Well a couple of hours later we were in Lahina < spelling... and we were just cruising around, all of a sudden my gf looked at me with distress and a sweaty upper lip and said i need to shit NOW . We found a bathroom and the blowout began .
So fast foward to now and i read this and it all makes sence . I shared this with her and we knew this must be the reason she had such a blowout .
The fish tasted great i must add .
from the sea
10-29-2004, 03:50 PM
i think that would be a hell of a prank to pull on a freind...or one of your fathers exes....hay whare could you buy this fish i want to have some fun with people, like exlax brownies, but sneeker! :)
10-29-2004, 10:22 PM
the miraculous thing about moving, and living, in Hawaii is how family members you never knew existed suddenly appear. Like a lttery winner that mysteriously sprouts new friends and family, I have people emailing me swearing we are related, or ex-best friends, and how they can't wait to come stay with us. Well, we let them stay and then feed them Walu and Roi (hot cig fish). Both taste good, but both can be bad news.
BTW, I am just kidding! I do have mysterious family members popping up and inviting themselves to come visit, but I haven't poisoned any YET!
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