The Thai Food and Drug Administration has prohibited the serving of puffer fish after a recent spate of food poisoning.

Vendors serving the fish could now face a maximum jail sentence of two years and a fine of Bt20,000 (US$457).

The potentially poisonous puffer fish will not, however, be removed from sale in markets, although the FDA is warning people not to buy the fish for their own safety and to be extra vigilant when buying fish fillets and steaks that may indeed be puffer fish.

The fish is poisonous due to the tetrodoxin contained in its skin, maw and roe. The poison can cause numbness and nausea in those that ingest it and can, in severe cases, cause paralysis and respiratory failure, which may prove fatal.

Puffer fish has become popular recently due to extensive supplies and relatively cheap prices, but it must be processed by trained personnel to remove the poison.

Contrary to some people's beliefs, the toxin is not destroyed by cooking the fish at a high temperature.

Health officials have warned that buying the fish with the skin removed does not guarantee its safety as traces of the toxin may have been left behind due to substandard processing, reported the Nation.