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Identifying Poisonous And Dangerous Foods

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 21 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Identifying Poisonous And Dangerous Foods

In a survival situation when you’re looking for food, your choices will consist of one or more of a combination of things that grow, walk, crawl, swim or fly and whilst many a plant or creature will provide you with nourishment to help you to stay alive, many are highly dangerous and/or poisonous and some can kill you more quickly than if you hadn’t eaten at all. So, what are some of the more common foods we should avoid at all costs in a survival situation?

Plants, Berries and Fungi

Plants, berries and fungi are probably the most difficult category to determine when it comes to considering whether or not they are safe to eat and it cannot be emphasised enough that you should not eat anything that grows out of the ground or on trees unless you are absolutely 100% sure that it’s safe to eat.

Certain plants can poison on contact through skin absorption, by ingestion or inhalation through the respiratory system. These include hemlock, castor bean and castor oil plant, oleander, lantana, poison ivy, poison oak, death lily and many varieties of fungi which can be lethal. This list barely scratches the surface however. The only way to be sure is to do the research and find out what plants are growing in the particular location you’re heading to and learn how to identify those which are safe to eat. Taking a guidebook with pictures is a good idea for survival.

Insects as a Meal

Whilst insects may not be the first choice on your menu, they are usually the easiest kinds of ‘meal’ to find and provide you with a very rich source of protein for survival. Ants, termites, grubs and worms are fine but, as a general guideline, you should avoid eating all insects which sting or bite, are very hairy or are brightly coloured, caterpillars and any insects which give off a pungent odour. Also avoid eating potentially disease carrying insects such as flies, mosquitoes and ticks.

With insects that have a hard outer shell such as a beetle, for example, these will contain parasites but are safe to eat as long as you cook them first. You can eat most insects raw if preferred but always remove wings and any barbed legs first.

Eating Fish

There are no poisonous freshwater fish so you can eat them safely but you should cook them to get rid of any parasites first. Some saltwater fish further out to sea will not contain any parasites so these can be eaten raw. However, certain species have poisonous skin which includes the porcupine fish, red snapper, jack and puffer so these should never be eaten raw. There are also several species of tropical fish which are highly poisonous and you should do your research first if you are venturing into areas which contain these types of fish.

Making a Dinner of Amphibians

Most species of frog are safe to eat but you should avoid eating any brightly coloured ones or those which have a distinctive X mark on their back. However, frogs should not be confused with toads which secrete a poison if they’re in fear of an attack. Toads tend to inhabit drier areas than frogs and you should not even handle, let alone eat, a toad.

Eating Birds to Survive

All bird species are edible although the taste varies tremendously.

Mammals as Food

All species of mammals are edible but both the polar bear and bearded seal have dangerous toxic levels of Vitamin A in their livers. In Australia, the platypus has poisonous glands and scavenging mammals can often carry diseases.

If you are serious about survival techniques, it can pay off greatly to learn all about the kind of vegetation and wildlife that is prevalent in the area you’re travelling to in order that you can easily distinguish what’s safe and not safe to eat. It can even save your life.

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Worth echoing the point in the article about eating plants and fungi. You really do need to know what you’re doing before attempting this. The safest way is to ignore mushrooms altogether unless you know how to identify poisonous ones and only eat berries you know. A few extra hours of hunger is much better than dying!
Cautious - 26-Sep-12 @ 10:22 AM
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