Friday, March 18, 2005


The Plastic Bucket Method

"Making fermented fish heads in plastic containers with tight-fitting lids made an ideal growing situation for the botulism germs. If you make fish heads in a plastic container with tight-fitting lids, it seems that your risk of getting botulism is much higher." - Tom Hennessy, MD, MPH Chief, Epidemiology Branch, Arctic Investigations Program, NCID, CDC

"In our Native community, we are most concerned about people eating fermented Native foods. In the past, people would bury their fish heads or seal flipper in the ground and we didn’t have many cases of botulism. Now people are placing their Native foods in either plastic buckets or plastic bags. Plastic creates an ideal situation for botulism germs to grow and produce poison."
- Barbara Riley, MD Physician, Kanakanak Hospital, Dillingham, Alaska

"My two aunties put beaver tail in plastic and put it under the stove in a warm place. It took about 4 days until they ate them. They didn’t make it."
- Sacally, Botulism survivor

"My mom got sick from seal oil and many people don’t know they could get botulism from seal oil. She was lucky to be seen by the doctors early because they caught it and had enough time to treat her."
- Lillian Gamechuck, Community Health Practitioner, Manokotak, Alaska

"We ate stinky heads that were fermented in a plastic bucket and left open in the hot sun."
- Joe and Lucy, Botulism survivors

If you are going to prepare fermented fish heads, this is the safe way to do it:


An experiment conducted by CDC measured botulism poison in fermented fish heads. No botulism poison was found in the fermented fish heads made in the traditional method by using a grass-lined hole in the ground. However, botulism poison was found in the fermented fish heads made in the modern method by using a plastic bucket with a tight-fitting lid that was buried in the ground.

The above information is from

Bon appetit!


Blogger Stan said...

I don't know. Who would want to eat a fresh fish head? But rotten?

The thing about plastic containers is interesting. Apparently there is a big difference between wooden cutting boards and the modern plastic ones. We always used a wooden one and never really worried about cleaning all the jerms out of it, and of course it gets totally thick with knife cracks where germs will hide. But the modern plastic ones cause all kinds of disease unless you clean it very carefully. The reason apparently is that wood contains a natural bactericide!

9:34 AM  
Blogger Damien said...

But then again I am actually partial to raw fish in coconut milk with tomatoes, onion and chives, seriously it's wonderful.

Although I do draw the line at heads, just the thought...and rotten heads at that.

6:09 PM  

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