CAIRO: The Ministry of Health advised Monday citizens against eating a traditional fermented salty fish known as Fesikh during the spring celebrations, as the smelly dish carries a risk of botulism, which can be fatal or cause paralysis.
Fesikh is a traditional Egyptian dish usually eaten during the Sham el-Nessim (translating to “smell the breeze”) festival, which marks the beginning of the spring, and has been celebrated since ancient times in Egypt.
The national holiday is celebrated on the Monday after Easter; it falls this year on April 13.
Fesikh is traditionally prepared by letting the raw fish dry in the sun, then is cured in salt.
“The way of preparing fesikh can be unsafe due to the lack of salt in the fish, and some people use dead fish floating on the sea surface,” Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, the Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said in press statements on Monday.
Despite annual warnings by the government, for many Egyptians the fragrant dish is an indispensable part of celebration; a full meal consists of salted fish paired with raw onions and lettuce, and bread.
After the celebration, food poisoning incidents appear in news reports after ingesting incorrectly prepared fish.
Unless the fesikh is cooked to a temperature of 100 degrees for ten minutes, like frying in oil, potential poisons inside would not disappear, said Abdel Ghaffar in his statements.
He added that the initial symptoms of the poisoning appear eight or 12 hours after eating the contaminated fesikh, and can include blurred sight, dry throat, muscle weakness and difficult in swallowing and breathing, which might cause death.
The Ministry of Health advises anyone who feels any of the aforementioned symptoms to immediately head to the closest hospital or medical center to receive treatment within 24 hours.
Egyptians have other traditions in celebrating Sham el-Nessim like: coloring eggs, visiting parks and zoos, and eating a salted and smoked herring sold in air vacuumed packages called ringa.