Do you really know what’s in your Sushi?

Sushi is Japanese preparation typically consisting of seaweed, vinegar rice, fruits and or vegetable and meat (typically seafood). Originally conceived in Japan, sushi has grown to be popular in many parts of the world. In the United States alone, there are 3,946 sushi restaurants responsible for over $2 billion annually10. If you didn’t know that then you probably didn’t know that sushi is also estimated to be responsible for at least 18 million infections worldwide12.

A study in 2008 and was conducted to determine the pathogenic threat of potentially tainted sushi foods or products commonly available at some restaurants and grocery stores. 250 samples of sushi foods or products were analyzed. Additionally comparison was made between frozen sushi from the supermarket and “fresh” (assuming unfrozen) sushi from restaurants. Results indicated that salmonella was prevalent in 1.6% of the samples and listeria was present in 1.2% of the samples5. Additionally the results also demonstrated that the unfrozen sushi had a higher prevalence for E.Coli, Staphylococcus and just bacteria overall5.


E Coli is bacteria that causes some cases of foodborne illness


These types of findings are not just synonymous with sushi only. Pathogens have also been observed in other raw fish preparations like ceviche. Ceviche is raw fish dish or meal that is normally prepared with a citrus juice such as lime or lemon and seasonings for flavor. It is common misconception that the addition of the citrus juices and other seasonings renders the fish meat uninfected, however results from a study in Mexico dispel that notion. The study observed a combination of 89 stationary and mobile food establishments serving ceviche. The study categorize the 221 twenty gram offerings by average temperature and acidity (pH level). The temperatures ranged from 48.2 degrees to 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit and pH ranging from 3.8 to 5.2 with a median of 4.557. The percentage of offerings having salmonella was 12 and 20% respectively for stationary and mobile establishments7. The also noticed the salmonella in two samples that had a pH less than 4.07. These results confirm a study conducted in 2013 concerning the efficacy of lime juice marinating for 2 hours. The juice does not kill off salmonella8. For cholera, it may9 or may not8.


Ceviche is a raw seafood dish that can harbor salmonella


Granted there are outlines for best protocol to minimize contaminated sushi consumption, but that does not mean restaurants may necessarily be following them. A study in Minnesota was conducted by Minnesota Department of Health Environmental Health Specialists Network Food in 2016 to analyze the adherence of proper safety and management quality of sushi for consumption. Forty restaurants were observed. Of the forty restaurants 59% of them were missing documents confirming that their supplier had properly frozen the fish to time and temperature requirements as stipulated by Minnesota Food Code6. Of the letters that were observed only 10% 6of them were considered adequate in communicating required information. Also bare hand contact with sushi was observed in 17% of the restaurants6 To understand the importance of having strict guidelines for handling and managing raw seafood you have to understand what pathogens are potential risks for illness if seafood is not handled properly.

Helminths are commonly referred to as parasitic or intestinal worms although some infect parts of the body other than the intestine. This group of parasites includes flatworms, tapeworms, flukes, roundworms and nematodes1


Diphyllobothrium, the fish tapeworm is one of several parasites that can thrive in unfrozen, uncooked or under cooked seafood


Diphyllobothrium is more commonly known as the fish tapeworm. It is so called because it is acquired by eating under cooked or uncooked freshwater or anadromous fish products2. After human consumption the parasite remains in the digestional tract where it remains indefinitely. This is a parasite of major concern not only because of its longevity, but also it the largest known human parasite. This tapeworm can grow from 2m to 15m in length 2.

As mentioned previously, intestinal flukes are another parasite that can be acquired a as a result of consumption of uncooked or under cooked fish, water plant or even contaminated drinking water4 in general3. This parasite is most prevalent in Southeast Asia where it is responsible for 10 million human infections4. The probability of infection can be greatly reduced by boiling edible water plants before consumption.

Symptoms of parasite infections can include: abdominal bloating or pain, low Vitamin B12, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, malaise, anemia, toxemia or sometimes none at all. If you are concerned about harboring a parasite consult a physician.


Food poisonings from tapeworms, flukes and others can cause symptoms like abdominal pain


My take from this is that this is another great reason to avoid eating any animal products period. Not only have we seen over processed meats being detrimental to our health but now we’ve just seen how under processed meats can bad as well.


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