27th May 2023 – (Taipei) A scholar who specialises in the study of giant isopods, Huang Ming-chih, has warned of the possible presence of heavy metals and other toxins in the crustacean. Huang’s warning comes after RAMEN BOY restaurant in Taiwan gained fame for featuring the creatures in their dishes. Huang urged caution when it comes to eating giant isopods due to their feeding habits, the odour of their digestive tracts, and the possibility of heavy metal absorption.
Huang, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Technology at National University of Tainan, said that although the crustaceans are indeed members of the genus Bathynomus, they are not Bathynomus giganteus but rather Bathynomus jamesi. Huang, who has been studying giant isopods for over half a decade, said that Bathynomus giganteus is only known to dwell in the Gulf of Mexico.
Huang suggested that there may have been a misunderstanding related to a translation by a Japanese aquarium. According to Huang, Bathynomus jamesi was registered in Taiwan only last year. He warned that giant isopods feed on the carcasses of marine organisms and their digestive tracts are very smelly. He added that the public should be careful when eating them because they are not a traditional food.
Huang noted that dangers include residues of pufferfish poison and paralytic shellfish poison. In addition, because giant isopods are benthic animals, meaning that they live on the sea floor, there is the possibility that they have absorbed heavy metals. Huang said that there have yet to be reports of people experiencing food poisoning after eating these crustaceans, but he recommends that the government conducts further testing to determine the differences between the two species of giant isopods and their safety for consumption.
Huang explained that Bathynomus giganteus has straighter spines on the pleotelson (tail) while Bathynomus jamesi has taller spines. Although the number of spines differs between the two species, it is not easy to distinguish between the two based on appearance. It is only through genetic testing that the two can be distinguished with certainty.
Despite the fact that the ramen restaurant misidentified the species, Huang said that he is happy that this was an opportunity to spark interest in the topic. However, he emphasized the need for caution when it comes to eating giant isopods due to the possible presence of toxins and heavy metals.