I love grabbing some sushi or sashimi when I am hungry and on the run. It is quick, convenient, rich in protein and good fats, plus there are plenty of healthy options to choose from. What makes it even more tempting is the fact that it is generally affordable and absolutely delicious!
Humans have been eating raw fish since the beginning of our existence, yet raw (and smoked) fish is one of the main foods that expectant mothers are warned to avoid during their pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding. This begs the question; is eating raw fish as healthy (and safe) as we are lead to believe it is?
There are two factors to consider about potential risks when it comes to eating raw fish.
Firstly, our environment has changed a lot over the last couple of hundred years and our oceans are now much more polluted, which runs the risk of certain types of seafood being high in contaminants, such as mercury. Mercury is one of the reasons women are advised against certain types of fish when pregnant, however, I should point out that cooking fish does nothing to the mercury content. Some types of seafood are higher in mercury than others, simply because of where they live within the ocean, and also what they feed off. Some of the types of fish that are considered higher risk due to their mercury content include orange roughy, shark, ahi tuna, bigeye tuna, marlin, swordfish and king mackerel.
The second consideration when it comes to consuming seafood, and this is where the ‘raw’ part is more of a consideration, is the different viruses, bacteria and parasites that raw fish can contain. Some viruses and parasites can be killed by either freezing or cooking the seafood, however, bacteria is something that can be avoided with appropriate storing, transport and preparation of the meat. There are some myths out there that raw seafood drenched in hot sauce or alcohol are rid of any potential bacteria, however this is not the case.
The bottom line is this; unless you are in the high-risk population: i.e. you are pregnant, have a compromised immune system or are susceptible to food poisoning from bacteria, purchasing raw fish from ay reputable restaurant should be fairly safe. As long as it has been properly handled and prepared, according to regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), then chances of getting ill from it are very slim and there are plenty of nutritional benefits to eating fish in your diet.
Where you might come into trouble is preparing raw seafood dishes yourself. If you are planning on doing this, make sure you opt for fresh seafood that have been appropriately frozen, as per FDA standards, and that you use the fish within 24 hours of purchasing. Never leave your seafood outside of your fridge when not being prepared or consumed and use the appropriate vinegar solution when preparing any rice for your sushi, as this works to lower the PH. to 4.1, killing off any microbes and making it safer to consume.