Is Your Sushi Safe? Top Questions Answered:
Every year, there are multiple cases of food poisoning due to tainted sushi. Just recently, raw tuna sushi was linked to a total of 53 people in 9 states.
Some may be nervous to eat sushi due to this reason but luckily eating reasonable amounts of raw seafood is ususally safe. Of course, there are some risks that can come with eating sushi you should be aware of. Here are some answers to your top sushi questions.
How can I tell if my sushi is tainted?
Although you might assume that sushi is supposed to smell fishy, it's not. In fact, if your sushi is quality, you shouldn't smell much more than a hint of seawater. So, if you're walk into a restaurant or investigate your store bought or takeout sushi and it smells like fish, you might want to think twice before digging in.
After you've determined your sushi doesn't smell fishy, take a look at it. Does it look fresh? Is it being kept contained and cold? Does it feel sticky to touch? Is it covered in film? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, don't risk it.
If you've checked the way it smells, feels, and looks chances are it's safe to consume. But remember, just like sushi shouldn't smell fishy, it shouldn't taste fishy either. If you take a bite and your sushi tastes off, put the chopsticks down.
Unfortunately, even if you pay attention to the warning signs, sometimes it's not easy to tell if a piece of fish has gone bad. Some types of fish such as tuna and mackerel host bacteria that causes scrombroid poisoning, an unpleseant but non-dangerous illness. Your sushi also has the potential of carrying salmonella which you can't detect with just normal senses alone.
Is supermarket sushi safe?
Yes, your supermarket sushi is probably safe. Most to-go sushi you find at Walgreens, Target, and Trader Joe's is provided by the largest supplier, Fuji Food Products. Like all food companies, they're held to the safety standards set by the FDA. Supermarket sushi may be made with a machine but it isn't more dangerous than potato salad or cold cuts. Surprisingly, the rice in sushi is usually the biggest culprit for food poisoning. If it's left out in room temperature for 8 hours, bacteria can start to grow. This is why sushi rice is typically made with vinegar. Just be sure to check the sell-by date and look for the freshness and color.
What kind of illness am I at risk for if I consume sushi?
When you consume raw fish, there are a number of bacteria that can cause you some problems. Here are some of them:
- Salmonella- symptoms include: fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps for 4-7 days
- Staphylococcus aureas- can grow in the rice of sushi, symptoms include: vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and mild fever for 1-2 days
- Bacillus cereus- symptoms include: diarrhea and vomiting lasting for 24 hours
- Hepatitis A- can inflame and damage the liver and weaken the immune system. Symptoms include: nausea, fever, and loss of appetite. It can be treated with medications or prevented with vaccine
- Virbio parahaemolyticus- symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, usually infection goes away on it's own unless individual has weaker immune system
- Anisakiasis- a rare disease from the parasitic worm, Anisakidae. Can cause havoc in the digestive system and potentially cause an allergic reaction
- Diphyllobothriasis- caused by the tapeworm D. latum. Can cause reduced blood levels of B12 and anemia
Should I risk it?
If you are a in the high-risk group, you should limit your intake or avoid raw fish all together. Pregnant women, young children, elderly people, and people weakened by disease/medical treatment fall into this group because they are more succeptable to infection. If you're not a high-risk individual, there's no need to panic. Just be sure to follow these tips and enjoy your delicious sushi!
If you are a food safety professional who deals with sushi, there are a number of things you can do to protect your customers.
- First freeze fish at around -31ºF for 15 hours or -4ºF for a week to remove parasites or bacteria from the outer surface (with the exemption of shellfish, farm-raised fish, and certain types of tuna)
- After preparation, keep the fresh fish at 40ºF or less in a cold container
- Throw away sushi that is not consumed within 24 hours of preparation
- Keep preparation area clean
- Wash your hands
- Use an approved vinegar recipe to lower the pH of rice to reduce the risk of bacterial growth
- For rice not prepared without vinegar, keep below 40ºF
- Separate cooked and raw foods and use separate cutting boards, knives, and rolling mats to prevent cross-contamination
Interested in more food safety tips? Download our free checklist to learn how to find and prevent contamination at your food processing plant.
About Brianne Shelley
Brie Shelley is the Inbound Marketer at Sample6. Her responsibilities include creating content for the brand’s blog, newsletters, social media channels, and email correspondence. Brianne is experienced in copywriting, blogging, and marketing from her pervious positions as an Inbound Marketer at Mavrck and as a Copywriter at SapientNitro and LogoMix. In her free time, Brianne enjoys staying active, traveling, and updating her photography blog.