Is Eating Raw Fish Safe and Healthy?

Sushi, raw fishRaw fish is the main ingredient in popular dishes like poke, sushi, and ceviche. These dishes are as easy to make at home as they are delicious. Before you prepare raw fish dishes, you may be wondering if eating raw fish is safe and healthy.

Health Benefits of Eating Raw Fish

Raw fish can be a healthful addition to your diet. Uncooked fish has higher levels of valuable nutrients and is free from chemical contaminants.

Cooking fish at high temperatures can reduce its nutritional value especially the amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in it. It can also cause it to become contaminated with chemical compounds such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). While eating fish that’s been contaminated by these chemical compounds won’t make you sick, it could increase your risk of developing cancer.

Keep in Mind: There is Always a Risk

While eating raw fish can be healthful, it is always riskier. Cooking fish at high temperatures kills bacteria and parasites. When you eat raw fish, there is a greater risk of food poisoning or contracting a parasite.

Food poisoning is caused by eating food infected with certain bacteria. Fish can become infected by bacteria such as Listeria, Vibrio, Clostridium, and Salmonella. These bacteria can cause a wide range of symptoms including nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Tapeworms, roundworms, and liver flukes are parasites that can live in fish. If you eat raw fish that contains one of these parasites, it could make a home in your body. The side effects of a parasitic infection range from mild to severe.

How to Reduce Risks When Eating Raw Fish

You can reduce the risk of getting sick from raw fish by buying it from a trusted fish market that follows FDA guidelines and handling it properly at home.

Even fresh fish is usually flash frozen and then kept on ice. One of the reasons for this is that freezing fish for 15 hours at -31°F or for a week at -4°F is the most effective way to kill parasites. The FDA guidelines require fishmongers to freeze and store fish that will be consumed raw at these temperatures.

Sushi for DinnerWhen you buy and prepare fish, it’s smart to follow these guidelines:

  • Speak with your local fishmonger to make sure they follow FDA guidelines.
  • Visually inspect fish when you buy it to make sure that it looks and smells healthy and fresh. (Fish that smells extra fishy or sour is more likely to be infected by harmful bacteria).
  • Store fish on ice in the refrigerator or in the freezer.
  • Prepare and eat fish within 48 hours of purchase. Bacteria can grow and multiply on fish even when it is refrigerated. If you cannot eat it within that timeframe, store it in your freezer.
  • Don’t leave fish out on the counter for more than 2 hours. Bacteria multiply quicker at room temperature.
  • Wash your hands before and after preparing raw fish.
  • Thoroughly clean all kitchen utensils, including your cutting board, that you will use to prepare it.
  • Avoid cross-contamination with other foods especially other meats.

Raw fish dishes are quick and easy to make. Following these simple guidelines will reduce the risks so that you can enjoy delicious raw fish dishes without getting sick. You can find fresh, high-quality raw fish at City Fish Market.

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