Eating shark meat, especially the fins by making soup, is considered a symbol of prosperity. There are also people who believe shark oil can pump the body in shape. In fact, everything is mere myth.
Farashaladinka Shara Viba Tan, a 20-year-old Chinese girl, said in various celebrations, especially Chinese New Year, shark fin soup is often a mandatory menu as a manifestation of gratitude for well-being, longevity, and success.
This kind of philosophy was heard by Cala, Farashaladinka's nickname, from his grandmother who believed that the older generation of Chinese people ate shark fin soup as a social status. Because the price is expensive and rare, only the rich and have a position that is able to enjoy it.
"The rarer the fish, the more it shows social status. "Those who were able to buy and eat only the emperor," said Cala.
His family last ate shark fin dishes when Cala was five years old. At that time he still lived in Shanghai, the largest city in China, but this habit was abandoned after they moved to Indonesia.
Consumption of shark fins can actually be harmful to health
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"I didn't eat anymore because I can't, right? Some types of sharks also enter rare animals, "he added.
In fact, even though some types of sharks are endangered and rare, consuming them actually causes adverse health effects. Sharks contain mercury exceeding the threshold, according to Prof. Dr. Ahmad Sulaeman, Professor of food safety from the Bogor Agricultural Institute.
"The meat metabolism, once dead, forms biogenic amines which make it smell like urine," Sulaeman told Tirto.
There is no scientific evidence that supports shark dishes to be positive for health. In contrast, sharks have the highest levels of mercury and toxins in fish. As the main predator in the food chain, the mechanism of shark poison is formed from the inability of marine organisms to release some toxins and heavy metals. This poison accumulates in the fish's body by eating other fish. This process is called bioaccumulation.
Because of its long life span — some species are up to 50 years old, these poisons accumulate. When eating dishes from sharks, these toxins automatically move to the human body.
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Mercury (Hg) is the most dangerous poison in the body of the shark. If other fish like, say, marlin only have mercury levels at level 0.5, tuna at level 0.4, white snapper below 0.4, lobster and crabs below level 0.2, sharks are fish with mercury levels reach level 1.
Organizations around the world, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), confirm that mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin toxin. They warn pregnant women, women who plan to become pregnant, or children not to eat shark meat.
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Research by Deepthi Nalluri et al in 2014 measured the level of mono methyl mercury (MMHg) - the most toxic and volatile form of mercury - in 50 shark fins from 13 species found in international trade. This toxic is also found in 50 shark fin samples which are served by restaurants throughout the United States.
Sharks with bodies containing high mercury are hammerhead sharks (Sphyrnidae) because they top the food chain in the marine ecosystem. Consumption of a bowl (240 milliliters) of shark fin soup contains a concentration of MMHg of 17 percent more than the number of recommendations of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
There is also a study by Joanna Burger et al from Rutgers University in 2015, which measures mercury levels in fish species in New Jersey. They found mako sharks and mackerel sharks have mercury levels between 1.0 ppm and 1.8 ppm. The US Environmental Protection Agency applies the limit of safe mercury to only 0.3 ppm (part per million) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits only 0.1 ppm.
In Indonesia, the safe limit for metal contamination in food products for mercury is 0.03 milligrams / kilogram. When you exceed that limit, and eat it regularly, it can increase the risk of damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, immune system, and sterility.
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In addition to mercury, the poison in the body of the shark is beta-n-Methylamino-L-alanine or a non-protein amino acid produced by cyanobacteria. This was discovered by Kiyo Mondo et al in their study in 2012. This toxin affects the nervous system. Exposure to the toxin is associated with an increased risk of neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), aka rapid decline in muscle function.
There are also other toxins in shark fins that are 13-32 times greater than, for example, Chinese national guidelines for marine products. Most shark fins also contain impurities such as hydrogen peroxide and formaldehyde, which if constantly accumulates in the body can develop cancer in the nose and throat.
So, do you still want to accumulate poisons by believing in health claims on food products from sharks?