FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Southern Cross University professor Phil Hayward advocates the human consumption of cane toads but has warned people to only eat professionally-butchered ones to avoid poisoning.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Southern Cross University professor Phil Hayward advocates the human consumption of cane toads but has warned people to only eat professionally-butchered ones to avoid poisoning. Marc Stapelberg

Planning cane toads for dinner? You should read this first

THE idea of harvesting cane toads into edible human food has attracted so much interest that the Southern Cross University professor behind the idea has had to warn people off butchering the toxic amphibians themselves.

Since publishing a draft paper which promoted the economic and health benefits of a regulated toad industry in Australia, Professor Philip Hayward has been swamped by inquiries by well-meaning farmers and entrepreneurs wanting to take advantage of the feral pests.

Some people had contacted him saying they had paddocks and dams populated with cane toads, asking him "why don't I cook them all up?".

"I was a bit concerned about that," Professor Hayward admitted.

Would you eat a cane toad?

This poll ended on 16 December 2014.

Current Results

Yummo! Serve 'em up!

13%

I'll try anything once.

28%

Err... you know they're poisonous, right?

13%

Yuk yuk yuk! You can't be serious!

43%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"Until we get a practice together for it I wouldn't recommend that people do their own butchering, just as people don't butcher their farm animals.

"You've got to make sure that your procedures are okay because otherwise you could endanger yourself."

Professor Hayward is now advocating for a code of practice for the safe harvesting of cane toads to lay the groundwork for a potential export industry.

There is a general rule for killing cane toads safely for food, but is more a backyard practice than an "industry standard".

The toads must be killed quickly and cleanly, have their rear legs cut off (the food) and be immediately skinned and washed.

But even then, there's no guarantee the pests are safe for everyone to swallow.

"Even though we know people have been eating them, we don't know what degree of toxin residue there may be there, and to what degree people with pre-existing conditions may react adversely to it," he said.

"We still need to do a few tests to make sure (they are safe)."

Having a code of practice was not unlike having authorised slaughterhouses for animals, Professor Hayward said, but research was still needed into the how to remove the toxins in a scientific manner.

Trials and procedures could be in place within a year.

I RODGERS

About cane toads

Cane toads are poisonous at all stages of their life cycle - eggs, tadpoles, toadlets and adult toads.

Cane toads have venom-secreting poison glands (known as parotoid glands) or swellings on each shoulder where poison is released when they are threatened.

If ingested, this venom can cause rapid heartbeat, excessive salivation, convulsions and paralysis and can result in death for many native animals.

The cane toad is a native of Central and South America.

Cane toads have proven to be highly effective invaders of new ecosystems with their distribution now extending to over 20 new countries.

Cane toads were introduced into Australia in 1935, when about 100 individuals were imported from Hawaii in 1935, to Gordonvale near Cairns to control sugar cane beetle populations.

They proved to be unsuccessful in controlling beetles, but very good at spreading themselves across the tropical north.

The cane toad now occurs in Queensland, Northern Territory and New South Wales as far south as Yamba.

SOURCE: Federal Department of Environment



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