Eating Live Fish
Eating live seafood is common in many countries, but most focus on shellfish instead of fish. On the other hand, fish are consumed raw in countries like Japan because of uncooked fish’s unique taste and texture.
I conducted this research to help those people who are not accustomed to eating raw fish understand its risk.
Is it safe to eat live fish? No, as raw fish are susceptible to bacterial and parasitic infections like Salmonella, tapeworms, and roundworms. Nevertheless, people still eat raw fish by reducing health risks through proper food handling and preparation.
I will discuss the health risk of eating live or raw fish in this article, along with the possible ways to reduce them.
Eating Raw Fish: Is It Safe?
People prefer cooking fish before consuming it for several practical reasons. Cooking helps to kill parasites and bacteria that reside in fish meat.
When you eat raw fish, these foreign bodies that are hardly visible can cause disease.
Despite that, some people still eat raw fish because they love its unique taste and texture. Countries like Japan patronize raw dishes like the popular sashimi and sushi.
Types Of Raw Fish Dishes
The consumption of raw fish dishes is becoming more and more popular. Here are some of the most recognized raw fish dishes served in many restaurants today:
Sushi – This popular Japanese dish includes cooked, vinegared rice filled with various other ingredients such as raw fish.
Sashimi – It is another dish popular in Japan that includes finely sliced raw fish or meat.
Poke – In Hawaii, this traditional raw fish dish is served with chunks of seasoned raw fish and mixed with vegetables.
Koi pla – If you want to taste a raw Southeast Asian dish, try Koi pla. It includes finely chopped raw fish combined with lime juice and different other ingredients such as garlic, fish sauce, chilis, vegetables, and herbs.
Soused herring – This popular dish is characterized as marinated raw herring served in the Netherlands.
Ceviche – In Latin America, this raw fish dish is very popular. It is characterized as a lightly marinated seafood that usually includes raw fish cured in lime or lemon juice.
Gravlax – Another traditional food made up of raw salmon cured in salt, sugar, and dill. Usually, it is eaten with mustard sauce.
Carpaccio – This dish is typical in Italy. It is originally made of finely sliced or pounded raw beef, but it can also include raw fish.
Parasitic Infections From Raw Fish
In humans, parasitic infections are a significant health concern, especially in many tropical countries. Usually, parasitic infections are transmitted by consuming improperly cooked food, infected drinking water, and raw fish.
Listed below are some of the primary parasitic diseases transmitted to humans by eating undercooked or raw fish.
When people eat undercooked or raw fish, there is a possibility of tapeworm transmission. Tapeworms are the largest parasite that can infect humans, and these parasites can grow up to 49 feet.
According to scientists, up to 20 million people are possibly infected by this parasite worldwide. When tapeworms infect a person, some of the symptoms it causes include stomach discomfort, fatigue, constipation, or diarrhea.
This parasite is associated with parasitic flatworms that cause a disease called opisthorchiasis. According to research, around 17 million people worldwide are infected by this disease, mainly in Southeast Asia.
When liver flukes mature, they reside in the livers of the infected, where they consume blood. Among the alarming health issues they can cause are bile duct infection, enlargement of the liver, liver cancer, gallbladder inflammation, and gallstones.
This type of parasite can cause a disease called anisakiasis, and they reside in live or raw marine fish such as salmon. Countries that frequently eat lightly pickled or raw fish have the highest roundworm infection rate, including Japan, Scandinavia, South America, and the Netherlands.
Roundworms are pretty different from many other fish-borne parasites as they can’t live in the human body for too long. However, their presence in the body can cause severe immune reactions like stomach pain, inflammation, and vomiting.
Among the reasons why health experts highly recommend cooking fish is because of food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Bacteria reside in fish meat, and the most potentially harmful are Vibrio, Listeria, Salmonella, and Clostridium. A US study found around 10% of raw imported seafood and 3% of the domestic raw seafood contains Salmonella.
How To Minimize The Health Risks Of Raw Fish
For those people who love eating raw fish, you can still eat your sashimi and sushi. Some ways can help to lessen the risk of bacterial and parasitic infections when eating raw fish.
- Only eat frozen raw fish – Aside from cooking, another way to kill parasites is to freeze fish for a week at -4°F or 15 hours at -31°F. Not all bacteria die after freezing, but they stop growing, and they reduce in number.
- Buy refrigerated fish – If you plan to buy raw fish, choose those displayed under a thick bed of ice or refrigerated.
- Don’t leave fish out for too long – Leaving fish out of the refrigerator for more than one or two hours is not safe. At room temperature, bacteria multiply quickly.
- Inspect your fish – Before eating raw fish, checking the fish before putting it inside your mouth. However, it might not be enough since many parasites are hardly visible to the eyes.
- Buy from reputable suppliers – Another way to ensure safe raw fish is to buy your fish from trusted fish suppliers and restaurants. Guarantee that they have stored and handled the fish properly before selling them.
- Clean your kitchen and utensils – The preparation of the raw fish also contributes to contamination. Kitchen utensils and surfaces should be adequately cleaned to avoid cross-contamination.
- Make sure it smells fresh – Never eat raw fish that smells sour or overly fishy.
- Wash your hands – Wash your hands properly before and after handling raw fish to avoid food contamination.
Also, note that marinating, cold-smoking, or bringing fish can reduce bacteria and parasites in the fish, but these techniques can’t 100% prevent disease.
Eating raw fish has been a custom for many countries. But since the consumption of barely cooked or completely raw fish is associated with parasitic and bacterial infections, health experts recommend cooking them.
On the other hand, you can reduce the risk of these health concerns with proper handling and best practices.
If you love eating raw fish, follow the tips I have mentioned earlier to enjoy your favorite raw fish dishes at home or in restaurants with low health risks.