Why I’m not Afraid That the Parasite in the Sushi I Just Ate is Going to Make Me Sick

Written By Scott Joseph On May 25, 2017

SushiCafe sushi

No, I’m not worried about the latest sushi scare, and I have no intention to stop eating it.

In case you missed it, the latest news to strike a raw nerve regarding raw fish involves anisakiasis, which is an illness caused by eating raw seafood contaminated with a parasite, a type of nematode, though I’m pretty sure it’s a different type than the one that is destroying my vegetable garden. Still, it’s essentially a worm.

What happens is that when someone eats a piece of fish with the parasite in it — you’re not eating right now, are you? You may want to unhand that hand roll for a few minutes. Anyway, what happens is that after you swallow it, the parasite can attach itself to your esophagus, stomach lining or anywhere in the vast theme-park-like slide that is your intestines.

The good news is that it can’t survive in that harsh environment known as your digestive tract for more than 10 days, tops. I don’t mean yours personally. It’s pretty much the same for everybody. The bad news is that 10 days can be pretty unpleasant — pain, vomiting, nausea.

Previously, most cases of anisakiasis have been confined to Asian countries, where eating raw fish is more common. But recently, medical professionals have been diagnosing cases in western countries. But before you start going crazy and start counting how many days ago you last had sashimi, you should know that the western countries they’re referring to are in Europe, which I always think of being east of here, but that’s just me.

Which is not to say the little nematodes aren’t in the fish that is served in American sushi bars, even those here in Florida. In fact, I’d be very surprised if they weren’t.

But here’s why I’m not concerned. Although I’m afraid that my explanation might burst one or two bubbles about sushi.

The fish that is served in restaurants in the United States has been frozen before serving. Yep, that raw fish that some of you believed was just off the boat has made at least one stop in a really cold freezer before the sushi chef thawed it out to turn it into a delicious morsel.

And the reason for the flash freezing is exactly what we’ve been talking about here. Freezing to -35 degrees kills bacteria and parasites. It doesn’t make them dormant so that they wake up during the thaw; this isn’t science fiction. It kills them.

Of course, you’re still ingesting their dead little bodies. But you realize that can be true of just about anything you eat, not just raw fish. Our food is full organisms. Some are killed when we cook the food in which they dwell. Some go in live and perhaps leave the same way, entirely without our being aware.

Of course the real key regarding sushi it to always make sure you’re dealing with a reputable restaurant.

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