Are you new to sushi? While you might enjoy the varying, mouthwatering sushi dishes, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that sushi is after all primarily raw fish or seafood. That being said, why is sushi safe to eat?
On the other hand, you might have never tasted sushi because you prefer to not eat raw fish. After all, many of us have been told to never eat raw meat of any kind. Wouldn’t eating raw fish make you sick? How can so many people eat sushi without getting ill? Read on as we answer a few of these questions.
What Exactly is Sushi?
To understand why you’re able to eat raw fish without too much risk to your health, it’s important to understand exactly what sushi is. While it originated in Japan, sushi is now found worldwide and can either be ordered in restaurants or even prepared at home.
Essentially, the term sushi refers to a group of cuisine that’s made up of raw and cooked fish which is often combined with vegetables, spices, sauces and vinegared rice. A variety of side garnishes are served with sushi to add to the flavor. Some of these include:
- Pickled ginger
- Soy sauce
Is Raw Sushi Safe to Eat?
While cooking fish and seafood for sushi is becoming more popular, the fish used in these dishes are primarily raw. But what is it that makes raw fish safe to eat?
Essentially it comes down to one simple factor – bacteria. The types of bacteria and parasites that you find on fish are less harmful than those found on land-based animals. Certain types of fish have fewer parasites than others and these are the types that are used in different sushi dishes.
Why Doesn’t Sushi Make You Sick?
Everyone who knows anything about meat or food preparation knows that you shouldn’t eat raw meat. Unless it’s been specially cured or prepared, the risk of food poisoning is very high.
This is largely a result of the parasites found on fish and red meat. The key difference is that it’s much easier to remove bacteria-filled pathogens from fish than it is from chicken, pork or beef.
Eating sushi is not entirely illness-proof. A common disease associated with sushi consumption is anisakiasis. This infection happens when your meal includes fish infected with a parasitic worm, which attaches itself to your intestines or stomach, causes food poisoning. To prevent getting sick from sushi, always ensure it’s made from sushi-grade fish and is prepared and consumed while still fresh.
What is Sushi-grade Fish?
To ensure that you don’t get sick from eating sushi, it’s essential to only use sushi-grade seafood. Sushi-grade refers to fish that is fresh enough to prepare and eat raw.
These types of fish are caught quickly, bled immediately, gutted and flash-frozen according to FDA regulations. Never use regular fish to make sushi since that’s more likely to have parasites.
Photo by Mahmoud Fawzy on Unsplash
Is Sushi Healthy?
Consuming raw fish does have its benefits. Uncooked fish, in the form of sushi, has much higher levels of nutrients crucial to maintaining a healthy diet. Since seafood is high in omega-3 fatty acids, it’s beneficial to any eating plan.
Preparing fish and seafood at high temperatures (such as frying) can reduce the nutritional value as well as the amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Different methods of preparation also expose the fish to chemical contaminants.
Read More: How Long is Sushi Good For?
What is the Safest Fish to Eat in Sushi?
Tuna is primarily considered to be the safest choice for sushi. Since tuna is a faster fish in the water compared to others, it’s easier for it to avoid having parasites latch on. This doesn’t mean that tuna is completely free of potential pathogens, but it is less likely.
Always ensure that your sushi is made from sushi-grade fish. If possible, opt for farmed fish and seafood as the exposure to parasites is less. Other fish that are commonly eaten raw are:
What Fish Should Never be Eaten Raw?
Despite the numerous health benefits of sushi and other types of raw fish, there are some fish that you should never eat raw. This is primarily because of the high mercury content and potential exposure to parasites.
The most prominent fish on this list include the following:
- Putterfish (contains toxins)
- Sea bass
- Blue marlin
Can You Get Coronavirus From Eating Raw Fish?
The good news is, there is currently no scientific proof to suggest that the coronavirus is found in raw fish. While it is suggested that the virus can remain on surfaces for up to three weeks, a few simple safety protocols will ensure your fresh fish stays safe.
Follow these few simple kitchen safety tips:
- Never prepare or work with the open fish directly on a kitchen counter
- Ensure you prepare fish on a separate plate or cutting board to that of other meat or vegetables
- Always prepare fish on a sterilized plate, tray or cutting board
- Make sure you wash your hands and utensils in hot water before and after using them to prepare your fish
Tips for Reducing the Risk of Getting Sick From Raw Fish
If you’re going to prepare sushi at home, there are a few additional tips to follow to ensure your fish remains healthy enough to consume. The most prominent of these are listed below:
- Ensure you buy fish from a fishmonger or store that follows FDA guidelines
- Inspect the fish to make sure it looks and smells fresh
- Store fish in the freezer or on ice in the refrigerator
- Prepare and consume fish within 48 hours of purchase to avoid bacteria growth
- Store fish in the back of the freezer or refrigerator to avoid temperature dropping every time you open the freezer door
- Never leave fish out on the counter or table for more than two hours as bacteria spreads and grows quicker at room temperature
- Always ensure that fish is properly wrapped before storage to prevent cross-contamination with other meat in the freezer
- Be cautious about buying fish from supermarkets as these fish are often not frozen at temperatures cold enough to kill bacteria and parasites
- Only attempt making sushi at home if you have a freezer that can reach the right temperatures
- Pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and young children should avoid eating sushi to eliminate the risk of infection
- If you’re still skeptical about eating raw fish, consider using variations of cooked fish for your sushi dishes
Read More: Does Sushi Contain Gluten?
There are a number of quick and easy raw fish dishes to prepare. By following our recommended guidelines, you’ll easily reduce the potential risks of illness.
Adding raw fish to your diet will allow you to take advantage of the many nutritional benefits found in fish meat. Additionally, you’ll also get to enjoy the delectable taste of sushi with a host of delicious toppings!