One of the greatest pleasures when traveling is to tuck into delicious, local dishes. That said it does require an open mind - snails, guinea pigs, rats, deep fried insects... don't be surprised if you see local people devouring foods that may make your stomach churn. But what about the dangers? How do we know that the delicious feast before our eyes isn't going to make us run to the toilet for the next two weeks or, even worse, end up in ER? Food poisoning, Ebola, bird 'flu, comas and even instant death can all be caused by eating something dodgy. So better be safe than sorry, as despite health warnings, some foods that aren't well-prepared will always slip through the culinary net.
Here are 12 foods that are best avoided whilst you're globe-trotting...
1. Star Fruit
Star fruit or carambola should only be eaten in moderation, as it contains high levels of oxalic acid, which can be toxic or cause kidney stones. There's no need to completely avoid carambola - it's high in health-boosting Vitamin C - but do bear in mind that oxalic acid is able to remove rust, so could strip your stomach clean!
This traditional Egyptian dish may look tasty on a plate, but if you could smell this photo, you'd understand why this fish is on our list! The mullet fish used to make Fesikh are slowly sun-dried and then fermented in salt for over a month! The Egyptian Health Ministry has issued warnings, but it remains a favorite with locals, who consume it by the plateful during spring - a tradition that harks back to the days when the Nile's levels would drop, leaving dead fish on its banks. Be warned that some restaurant owners can't afford to buy Fesikh from a 'specialist' dealer and have been known to scavenge for dead fish to make this dish!
3. Cane Toad
If the thought of frogs' legs is enough to make you barf, then imagine being served a toad! These toads are highly prized in Africa and Asia for their tender leg meat, but the rest of this croaky amphibian is poisonous! What's more it looks just like another toad that is fatally toxic to humans, so if you're tempted, make sure you really know what's on your plate!
We all fell in love with Bloat in Finding Nemo, but if someone serves up this Japanese delicacy be very wary. Also known as blowfish, when they feel threatened they fill their bodies with water and puff up so as to look menacing. But it's not just their appearance that makes them 'dangerous'! Pufferfish can only be prepared by licensed chefs who have gone through years of training, as they contain tetrotodoxin, a poison that's even more toxic than cyanide. There's no antidote, so if its organs aren't correctly removed during preparation, then anyone who consumes the fish could die within a few hours!
5. Casu marzu or 'putrid cheese'
Although the EU has banned this from being sold, this Sardinian cheese can still be found in villages around the island. It's made from a pecorino cheese that's been fermented by fly larvae! The finished product is a stinky, mushy cheese filled with maggots that's then eaten with Sardinian bread. Suffice to say that it comes as no surprise that this specialty is called 'the most dangerous cheese in the world'. Allergies, food poisoning, intestinal parasites... eat this and then take your pick!
6. Pangium edule
Native to Southeast Asia, pangium edule trees produce a fruit that contains cyanide. Once properly prepared its seeds can be used as a spice. They're boiled and then wrapped in banana leaves that contain ash, before being buried for 40 days. Once fermented this 'keluak' spice can be eaten without posing any problems.
7. Crow Meat Pie
These noisy scavengers are a far cry from a juicy roast chicken, but in Lithuania crow's meat is considered to be a delicacy. Crows pick on rotting flesh and other waste, so eating them was banned during the Communist era due to health risks. However, crows have since come back into culinary fashion. The meat is boiled for an hour, mixed with vegetables and then made into a crusty pie. According to some medical practitioners, this kills all bacteria, making it completely safe to eat.
8. Fresh Blood Soup
We've all heard of cooked blood dishes such as black pudding, but in Vietnam people love a bowl of fresh duck or goose blood soup. This dish is supposed to boost strength, but seeing as it could also give you a nasty, avian virus, we suggest you give this one a miss!
9. Chanterelle Mushrooms
Chanterelle mushrooms are considered to be poisonous. Okay, so some people can eat them without a problem, but if you have a wild mushroom allergy, they can be highly dangerous. The toxin attacks red blood cells a couple of hours after they've been consumed and cooking them doesn't reduce the risk. Every time you eat a chanterelle, you risk accumulating this toxin and if your system becomes overloaded, you could die.
10. Arctic Igunaq
Ever heard of botulism? Well, you could go down with a nasty dose when you eat Igunaq for the first time. People in Greenland who've been eating this since childhood are immune, but not the rest of us. This dish is made from seal or walrus meat that's rolled in the animal's fat and then wrapped in its skin. This 'parcel' is then left outdoors for several months until it's 'matured'.
11. Ackee: Jamaica's national fruit
Ackee is a popular Caribbean fruit, but if you don't follow some basic rules, you could end up in a coma - or worse! Ackees contain hypoglycin, an incredibly strong poison, so you should wait for them to open on their own and then take out their seeds. Hospital admissions in the Caribbean (and some African countries) due to ackee poisoning are often young children suffering from severe vomiting.
12. Bat Soup
Think birds nest soup sounds bad? Well, how about a bowl of bat soup? All you need to do is boil it whole with vegetables in some milk or water! Often called chicken of the cave, this Asian delicacy is now banned in Africa, as bats are primary carriers of the Ebola virus!