By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
Sushi Lovers, Here Is Some Food For Thought!
I used to eat sushi pretty regularly, until it gave me high mercury levels. Although I have not been eating sushi since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I do enjoy sushi every once in a while.
But recent news is making me strongly consider taking sushi off my favorite foods list.
As you probably know, most sushi contains raw fish. If prepared properly, sushi is usually safe to eat for most people. I’m sure many of you reading this have had sushi quite regularly. But a new study “...found that since the 1970s, there's been a 283-fold increase in the abundance of a parasitic worm that can be transmitted to people who eat raw or undercooked seafood,” according to one report discussing the study.
Yes, you read that right. There is a possibility that there could be parasitic worms in your sushi.
The type of parasitic worms the study referred to are called Anisakis worms or herring worms.
Recently in Singapore, a man reportedly found a “worm-like” parasite in mackerel sashimi that he bought at a Japanese market. The man said that he was enjoying the sashimi slices at home until he saw something moving around in one of them.
In addition to this, a few years ago, a man in Portugal got sick from worms after eating sushi.
“...using an endoscope — a flexible tube with a camera — doctors examined the man's upper digestive tract, and were able to see the parasite attached to his gut lining. Doctors removed the parasite and determined that it was indeed an Anisakis worm. Illnesses caused by this worm are known as anisakiasis,” (Live Science).
“The incident highlights an increasing number of infections from a parasite found in raw fish that doctors are seeing in Western countries, as sushi dishes rise in popularity, according to a new report.”
And at a Costco in New Rochelle, New York, a man “...saw a live worm wriggling on a package of fresh wild sockeye salmon,” according to this news report.
No, this was not at a sushi restaurant, but the main takeaway is that raw fish can contain these parasites.
“When people eat live herring worms, they can invade the intestinal wall and cause symptoms similar to food poisoning, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” according to the report discussing the study.
So some people may ingest these parasites and never even know it, because they may get sick and just think that it is food poisoning. Fortunately, most of the time the worm dies in a few days and the symptoms will go away, but how unappetizing!
Last July, a woman in Canada reportedly pulled dozens of herring worms from a fillet of raw wild sockeye salmon that she bought from her local grocery store.
"It was completely packed full of worms," she said. "If it wasn't for deboning the fish, I would have never noticed the worms crawling out.”
She also added, "If we are purchasing something like this from the grocery store, we should be made aware that this is potentially in our food."
The truth is if you eat raw fish (or even undercooked fish), it is probable that you have consumed these worms.
According to the report discussing this woman, “...experts say the worms are unwittingly eaten by plenty of seafood lovers and only pose a health risk if alive.”
So if the worms are dead, they are usually not harmful. But I certainly don’t want to see worms in my fish when I come back from the grocery store. And I definitely do not want a side of worms with my sushi! Apparently, herring worms are the most common parasites found in fish and wild salmon is commonly infected.
One of the authors of the study mentioned earlier said that seafood producers and sushi chefs are generally very good at finding and removing herring worms from fish, however, sometimes a worm here or there gets overlooked.
If you choose to still eat sushi, experts recommend cutting each piece in half and looking at it to see if something is moving around. Pregnant women should not eat sushi or undercooked fish and if you have any existing health issues, it is always recommended that you discuss with your doctor or a competent healthcare professional the foods that you are including in your diet.
Eat at your own risk, but try to be as safe and healthy as possible by only going to reputable sushi restaurants and looking more closely at the food you are eating. Also remember that sushi should be consumed in moderation in order to avoid ingesting too much mercury.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.