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Foods -- Seafood

Are raw and lightly marinated seafood such as sushi and ceviche safe?

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Consuming raw fish is slightly riskier than eating cooked products, primarily because parasites may be present. To minimize the risk, do not eat raw or marinated seafood unless the fish has been adequately frozen to ensure that any parasites are destroyed. In countries where raw fish dishes are traditional, the fish are usually frozen before preparation. Freezing at 0 to 18 F for 48 hours will kill any parasites that may be present; however, for larger fish four to five days may be required. Commercially frozen fish are usually held at even colder temperatures and are essentially free of parasites.

Although parasites are the primary health concern in consuming raw fish, bacteria can also be a problem. If you are in one of the high-risk groups listed in the previous question, avoid raw or lightly marinated seafood of any kind.

The information presented here refers only to raw or lightly marinated products. Pickled products, such as pickled herring, are not a problem. The acidity of the vinegar used in pickling, often in combination with salt, preserves products and destroys parasites and harmful bacteria.

SOURCE: Donn Ward, Ph.D., Joyce Taylor, and David Green, Ph.D., Department of Food Science, NC State University

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