Woman Finds Tongue-Eating Parasite in a Can of Tuna-Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
Reports have gone viral that a woman found a tongue-eating parasite in tuna.
The tale of a woman who found a tongue-eating parasite in tuna turned out to be false.
It started out as true story about a British woman who found a tiny, beady-eyed creature in a can of Princes brand tuna. But, as the story made its way around the Internet, it morphed into a grisly (and false) warning about tongue-eating parasites in tuna.
The Nottingham Post first reported in January 2015 that a British woman had found a “creature staring at her” from a can of Princes tuna. The initial Post report quoted a professor who said the creature looked like a “juvenile crab.”
Then, in February 2015, the Telegraph reported that scientists had identified the “tiny tuna monster” as a parasite that preys on the tongues of large fish:
…The Natural History Museum said that the head probably belonged to a Cymothoa exigua, or tongue-eating louse. The parasite lives inside a fish, entering through its gills and attaching itself to its host’s tongue.
Stuart Hine, Identification and Advisory Service manager, from the Natural History Museum, in London, said: “‘From what I can see I would support the head of a Tongue-eating louse, Cymothoa exigua, or similar.
“I think these are associates of smaller fish than Tuna and fish that tuna eat.
“We could undoubtedly say more if presented with the specimen.”
The Telegraph report quickly spread across social media sites, and a number of American news outlets picked up on the story. Full-blown panic ensued.
Within days of that report going viral, however, the creature was identified as an immature Megalopae crab that had its legs and body sheared off in the production process.
A Princes spokesperson said, “We appreciate that the appearance of the crab will have been unpleasant, however please be assured that it represented no food safety risk.”
Even though this eRumor turned out to be false, however, that doesn’t mean that tongue-eating parasites don’t actually turn up in seafood sometimes.
A British man who bought a sea bass from a Morrisons fish market in November 2014 found the tongue-eating parasite clinging to the tongue of his dinner. A Morrisons represntative told the South Wales Evening Post:
“Although we make every effort to screen these out during the skinning or packaging processes, they may be present on very rare occasions.
“Our skilled fishmongers will also identify them as they fillet a fish – Mr Poli’s fish was sold un-filleted at his request.
“We have already offered Mr Poli our apologies as well as a £20 voucher as a gesture of goodwill.”
So, it is possible to find a tongue-eating parasite in seafood, but one wasn’t found in a can of Princes tuna.