There are many people for whom the idea of eating sushi does not appeal because they don’t like the thought of eating raw fish. Of course, sushi isn’t only raw fish but the very knowledge that there is some raw fish in the dish can be unappetizing. There are others, however, who don’t like the idea of eating sushi because they consider the inherent risks too great. But what are the risks in eating sushi and are they as great as some fear?
As with any food care should be taken in the preparation and cooking process to ensure that food hygiene is strictly adhered too. When serving raw fish it’s even more important because you don’t have the cooking process to fall back on; usually the cooking of food to the appropriate temperature will kill any lingering bacteria that would cause food poisoning if the food was consumed in its raw state.
Many people avoid eating raw fish because they believe it to be infected with viruses, bacteria or parasites. While this is possible, it’s good to know the extent of the risk because it may alter one’s opinion.
There is a condition known as “anisakiasis” which is quite unpleasant and is potentially fatal. It is caused by tiny larval worms that can be found in some sea creatures; as far as ingredients used in sushi is concerned, the most commonly found fish that contain these larvae are cod, herring and mackerel. These are fish that are used less often in sushi restaurants and more by people making sushi at home so choosing to eat sushi in a restaurant is a good move; ordering certain dishes from the menu rather than a set platter of sushi will help you avoid any fish that cause you more concern.
Tapeworms are another worry for some diners but one that shouldn’t really be concerning at all. The truth is that a tapeworm requires at least one freshwater phase in its lifetime and sushi restaurants use only freshwater seafood and fish in their dishes so the chances of being stricken by tapeworms from eating sushi are virtually nil.
The contamination of predatory fish, such as tuna and swordfish, with mercury and other heavy metals is a topic that is grabbing the headlines these days. Pregnant women and people with weak immune systems are advised to avoid such foods and while scientists acknowledge that the risk to healthy people is low, they should limit the amount of these kinds of fish to no more than one or two servings a week. PCBs are another contaminant that is associated with fish used in sushi though again the risks are minimal when average amounts are consumed.
Overall the risks of food poisoning or more serious illness are no greater from eating sushi than any other food. Sushi chefs undergo possibly the most stringent training of any kind of chef and get special training in recognizing fresh fish and identifying possible contaminants. Furthermore, many countries have strict guidelines on what can be defined as “sushi grade” fish which may entail special deep freezing that will kill any bacteria present.
After this it is only the attention to cleanliness of yourself or the person preparing the sushi that can guarantee the safety and freshness of the food you are consuming.