8 Children Die After Eating Sea Turtle Meat

It happened in the Zanzibar archipelago
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 10, 2024 8:15 AM CDT
9 Die After Eating Sea Turtle Meat
Green sea turtles are one of the species most commonly tied to cases of chelonitoxism, though it's not clear which turtle was involved in this case.   (Getty Images / Kat Harrison)

Eight children and an adult died after eating sea turtle meat on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago and 78 other people were hospitalized, authorities said Saturday. Sea turtle meat is considered a delicacy by Zanzibar's people even though it periodically results in deaths from chelonitoxism, a type of food poisoning. The adult who died late Friday was the mother of one of the children who succumbed earlier, said the Mkoani District medical officer, Dr. Haji Bakari. He said the turtle meat was consumed Tuesday.

Bakari told the AP that laboratory tests had confirmed all the victims had eaten sea turtle meat. Authorities in Zanzibar, which is a semi-autonomous region of the East African nation of Tanzania, sent a disaster management team led by Hamza Hassan Juma, who urged people to avoid consuming sea turtles. In November 2021, seven people, including a 3-year-old, died on Pemba after eating turtle meat while three others were hospitalized.

Poison.org provides details on chelonitoxism, which is thought to be related to cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, that has been consumed by the turtles. It notes: "Affected turtles appear healthy and do not exhibit signs of illness, but human poisoning can occur if the turtle meat is cooked, eaten raw, or boiled in soup, and all parts of the turtle are potentially toxic. ... There is no antidote for chelonitoxism, as the specific toxins responsible for the illness have not been identified." (More food poisoning stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.