Beware of the 'Ex-Lax Fish'

wane - State Representative James Tokioka did some research and drafted a bill that prohibits catching, selling or even possessing walu in Hawaii.

"I talked [to] many people who sell fish, some of the hotel who [buys] fish, they are aware of it and they're not buying it anymore," said Rep. Tokioka.

Tokioka said people have shared their nightmares of severe diarrhea after consuming a large portion of the fish. The oily walu or Escolar contains a high-level of wax esters in its tissue that are beneficial to its deep-sea survival, but can be unkind to humans.

"I've never had it, but the people that I've talked to said you can't control it," said Rep. Tokioka.

Native Hawaiians called the fish Maku'u or exploding intestines. It is banned in Japan and Italy.

"I'm not one for banning anything but if it creates a public hazard a public safety hazard with many people than I think this definitely something that needs to have further discussion," said Rep. Tokioka.

Doctors are embracing the legislation.

"I think if restaurants can't police themselves or if they're the victims from suppliers it will just clean-up the process from A-to-Z and its really the consumer who will benefit," said Dr. James Ireland, Assistant Professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Dr. Ireland has treated several walu victims.

"One lady had such bad diarrhea she had an accident in her pants, an adult, her husband had to go the emergency room I mean it's pretty serious," said Dr. Ireland.

Rep. Tokioka said even if the bill is watered down to just requiring better labeling, he hopes more people are educated about the dangers of the fish.


Escolar is consumed in several European and Asian countries, as well as in the USA, sometimes raw as sushi or sashimi. It may be sold as "white tuna" - a term also used for the albacore - or as "super white tuna" to distinguish it from the albacore. Escolar is also sold misleadingly as "butterfish", "oilfish" and "Hawaiian butter fish"; in Hawaii and Fiji, it is known as walu. Like oilfish, a related species with similar consumption consequences, escolar is also sometimes deceptively sold under the name of an entirely different species of fish, most commonly "codfish", "orange roughy" or "sea bass".

In 2009, as part of a project to create a DNA database of every fish species, scientists from Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History tested tuna samples from sushi restaurants in New York City and Denver, Colorado. They discovered that five out of nine restaurants serving fish labeled “white tuna,” “white tuna (albacore)” or “super white tuna” were actually serving escolar.

As a member of the Gempylidae family, Escolar or Snake Mackerel is not kosher.

Like its relative the oilfish (Ruvettus pretiosus), escolar cannot metabolize the wax esters (Gempylotoxin) naturally found in its diet. This gives the escolar an oil content of 14–25% in its flesh. These wax esters may cause gastrointestinal distress in humans called "keriorrhea", the onset of which may occur between 30 minutes and 36 hours following consumption. Symptoms may include stomach cramps, loose bowel movements, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

To minimize the risk of symptoms, control of portion size is recommended as well as preparation methods that remove some of the oil. Grilling will greatly reduce the heavy fat content in the fish, making it edible without ill side-effects. Portions should be no greater than 6 ounces (170 grams).

NOTE: I've seen this fish sold as 'sea bass', 'Hawaiian butterfish' and 'white tuna'...this is why I buy only whole fish...Lon
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