Gizmodo Taps Anthro Prof for Take On Dangerous Food

Dr. Ty Matejowsky samples durian fruit.


What’s a hefty fruit that can not only kill you with the wicked one-inch thorns on its thick exterior, but is so sulfurous on the inside that eating high concentrations could also prove lethal?

If you guessed Southeast Asia’s durian fruit, you’re right. It was also Ty Matejowsky’s choice when he was approached by online entertainment site Gizmodo for his opinion on the article “What’s the most dangerous food of all time?” Matejowsky, Ph.D., is a cultural anthropologist with a special interest in the street food of the Philippines.

“Durian has a reputation that precedes it,” says Matejowsky, who sampled the spiky fruit during one of his many trips to the Philippines. “It’s actually banned on public transportation in a lot of places because of the smell.”

Matejowsky’s answer was at the top of the list of the “Giz asks” series, which included replies from Harvard and New York universities. He suspects it’s because his answer poses the most immediate danger, versus other replies like the cumulative greenhouse gases generated by cows or the long-term effects of sugar. There are documented cases of people killed both by the fruit falling from the tree (it weighs between 2 and 7 pounds) and consuming large quantities of durian in conjunction with alcohol or caffeinated drinks like coffee.

“I’ve written about all kinds of street foods and the durian is definitely in a category of its own,” Matejowsky says.


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