Sometimes the food you eat is trying to kill you. Not in the traditional sense, with saturated fat, refined sugars and cholesterol. There are a few foods out there that can literally end your life if improperly prepared, or at the very least make you terribly sick. While you probably won’t encounter most of the items on this list during the normal course of your life, a few of them are surprisingly common.

The old saying “you are what you eat” takes on new meaning when what you “eat” doesn’t really care who you are, and could potentially harm you. You should always take care when planning your diet for the day, especially if you’re not sure what you’re getting into. Here are a few dangerous foods you might want to avoid.

Fugu Puffer Fish

Saspotato, Flickr

Fugu, or blowfish, is an expensive delicacy found in Japan. When the fish, and the dish, is properly prepared, there isn’t any problem with eating this strange creature. But when the fish is improperly prepared, you’ll probably die. The risk comes from the fact that Fugu contains a tetrodoxin that will cause your muscles to freeze up, and keep you from breathing. The poison is released when the fish is cut the wrong way. Unfortunately, there is no antidote. Fugu has been a last meal for quite a few people, even though that wasn’t their initial intention.

Sannakji Choking Octopi

In Korea, rather than you choking on your food, your food might actually choke you. A Sannakji wriggling octopus can be a great treat for those who love seafood. You can pick them up in local markets in Korea, but you have to be extremely careful -- these octopi are served while the animal is still moving. They have been known to attach their tentacles and suction cups around the necks of diners and choke them to death. Sometimes food gets its revenge.

Giant Bull Frogs

cyanocorax, Flickr

If you ever make it to Namibia, the African country where Angelina Jolie had her first natural born child, be careful when indulging in one of the nation’s culinary specialties, the giant bull frog. The danger comes when the frog selected for supper happens to be a tad too young. These “premature" bullfrogs, ones that have not bred yet, carry a poison that can cause temporary kidney failure. That’s a high price to pay for a simple meal. Chances are you won’t “croak” after eating a premature bullfrog (provided you seek medial attention),  but you’ll probably be sick for a fair amount of time.

Hot Dogs

B Tal, Flickr

Not all of the foods on this list are strange and exotic. Everyone loves hot dogs. (Well, maybe strict vegetarians don’t, but you get the point.) As widespread as these little meat missiles are, they come with some risk. Hot dogs can cause asphyxiation, especially in young children, which can lead to death. You should always take small bites, and chew the heck out of your hot dogs. If you have little kids, cut those hot dogs up before serving them

Cassava Root

IITA Image Library, Flickr

Cassava root is used to make tapioca, and it's also a vital part in the diets of millions of people worldwide. If the cassava is improperly prepared, it can produce cyanide. Eating this root is one way to get a healthy dose of carbohydrates, but you have to make sure it’s always properly cultivated and cooked, otherwise you might get some unwanted poison as well.

Ackee Fruit

Golden_Ribbon, Flickr

The Ackee fruit and plant originated in Africa, and then made its way to Jamaica. It’s an extremely popular fruit, which can be eaten raw, or mixed in with traditional dishes. The danger comes from the large black seeds inside the fruit. They contain the poison hypoglycin, which if consumed, causes severe vomiting, and in worse case scenarios, coma or even death.


Mushrooms, cooked with garlic and butter, or else with a tangy pasta sauce, can be delicious. But for people who head out into the forest and pick their own mushroom, the results can be deadly if they choose the wrong kind. Poisonous mushrooms, often referred to as “toadstools,” carry toxins that can make a human very sick, and perhaps end his or her life. Always know what kind of mushroom you're picking, and hunt for them with a knowledgeable guide.

Casu Marzu Cheese

Casu Marzu is perhaps the most dangerous cheese on the planet. This Italian cheese, which is known as “the rotting cheese,” is left out in the open for days. Cheese flies buzz on by and lay eggs inside. The eggs hatch, maggots come out and eat some of the cheese, and the fermentation process speeds along. Not grossed out yet? The cheese is now illegal to produce, but people in Sardinia eat it anyway. Sometimes the maggots survive inside the human body and cause severe health problems, like bloody diarrhea and vomiting. At least with the maggots, you get a little bit of extra protein along with your dairy.

Monkey Brains

Jungle_Boy, Flickr

If you’ve ever seen the film 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,' you might remember the disgusting scene where Indy dines on chilled monkey brains. There are places, mostly in Asia, where, if you’re so inclined, you can chow down on primate brains. The danger comes from an illness called Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which can lurk inside a monkey’s skull. This disease, which is similar to Mad Cow disease, will turn your own brain to goo, and cause death. Best avoid those monkey brains the next time someone passes them around the table.


ilovemypit, Flickr

Everyone loves rhubarb pie, or if you like a little more sweetness with your tart flavors, rhubarb and strawberry pie. The important thing to remember when cooking with rhubarb is to only use the stem, and never, ever consume the green leaves. Rhubarb leaves are rife with oxalates, which can poison you if ingested in significant amounts, and cause seizures and severe respiratory problems. Enjoy rhubarb pie made with rhubarb stalks, but stay away from those pesky, poisonous rhubarb leaves.