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How safe is sushi from a decent sushi restaurant?

Hi -

Whenever I go to a sushi restaurant I see people eating every type of food on the menu and eating tons of it (rolls and sushimi).

I want to know, just how safe is it to consume raw fish? Should I be afraid every time I eat tuna/salmon/yellow tail/striped bass/uni etc etc etc that I am going to get ill from bacteria or become a host from a parasite?

I love sushi, but I just wanted to know if any of you fellow chowhounders had any input as to just how safe it is to eat chunks of raw fish, regardless if it is a very high end place, or just a very good, "very fresh" neighborhood joint.

THANK YOU!!!

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  1. I'm a huge sushi fan, but of course I apply a healthy dose of common sense when eating it.

    If the place isn't squeaky clean and presentable, I walk.
    If the sushi area doesn't look clean and organized, I walk.
    If the fish doesn't look, feel, or smell fresh, I walk.

    But then again, I apply those rules to any restaurant where I dine. I've only gotten sick once in over 20 years of eating sushi, and it was from grocery-store sushi. I'll never make THAT mistake again.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Suzy Q

      Same experience Suzy Q and unfortunately, on Christmas Eve. My wonderful husband had brought me home a sushi lunch from our local grocery store... a treat... Luckily, it was a lunch only for me!

    2. When I go to a Japanese restaurant to eat sushi, I take a good look at the sushi bar where the chefs are working. Look at the condition of the fish, how it is kept, how it is handled. Use your eyes and your nose to scope it out.
      If I don't feel that the place is "clean"...and that covers a lot of areas, I'm not risking it. And my own personal prejudice is that I prefer to eat sushi at an authentic Japanese restaurant, not a Chinese or Korean restaurant that also serves sushi.
      I know others will disagree, which is fine, I've said it's my own personal prejudice.
      If I'm eating something that depends on a high level of skill to prepare properly, I have more trust in someone who is a "specialist".
      High turnover is key, you know there's a better probability that the food is fresh.
      "High end" places or "joints", they both have their charm. If it's a neigborhood place that is always busy, chances are they are doing something right.

      1. I'll go out on a limb and say this......

        People who enjoy Sushi and Sashimi have have no concerns at their favorite spots or elsewhere.....

        People who do not eat Sushi or Sashimi.........it does not matter......

        I believe all Sushi Grade Fish is supposed to be frozen to -4* F to kill all bacteria or parasites......before it can be sold a Sushi Grade.

        7 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          Yes, fish that is to be served raw, as well as cold-smoked fish, should be deep frozen first, according to FDA guidelines. However, I'm not sure those guidelines are enforced very strictly. I recently even saw a purveyor of cold-smoked fish advertising that their product is never frozen. I'd be interested to hear from anyone in the business who could speak to how closely these guidelines are actually followed, especially in restaurants, which are inspected by local health boards but not the FDA obviously.

          1. re: Low Country Jon

            I took a sushi course from a Japanese sushi chef and he insisted the tuna be frozen for 48 hours before sushi preparation, if that helps. His english wasn't great, but from what I understand tuna is a source of parasites, and that salmon is safe from parasites. Salmon does not need to be frozen before preparing sushi.

            I have been eating sushi regularly for almost 20 years and have never been sick. Like posted here, use common sense and go to well-run, clean sushi restaurants. Avoid cheap sushi or sushi buffets.

            1. re: sweeterpea

              Salmon are not safe from parasites. You must have misunderstood the chef.

              1. re: sweeterpea

                actually, other way around, i think. salmon is a freshwater fish and is more likely to host parasites that are harmful to humans (i.e. roundworm). traditionally, sushi chefs didn't serve freshwater fish for that reason. these days, chefs freeze freshwater fish to kill the parasites.

                (as an extra tidbit: dogs are also supposed to avoid salmon from the northwest because of a different kind of parasite that affects them, but not humans.)

                1. re: cimui

                  Salmon are anadromous, neither exclusively saltwater nor freshwater. They hatch in freshwater, swim to the sea to live most of their lives, then return to freshwater to spawn and die. Anadromous fish are particularly prone to parasites.

                  1. re: ricepad

                    very interesting, ricepad. do you know why that's so? (i'd think that freshwater parasites would die in salt water.. but maybe the innards of anadromous fish are a nice, salt free living environment?)

                2. re: sweeterpea

                  You've got that reversed: Tuna is safe, salmon isn't.

            2. I've been eating sushi (su = vinigared, shi = cooked rice) for (as of yesterday!) 58 years. Have been eating sashimi for a bit less. Have never gotten sick from sashimi or sushi with raw seafood. And I made sashimi for years with fish that hadn't been deep frozen when I lived in SE Asia.

              I have, however, gotten into various driving accidents when younger, have drank way too much, have had way too much fun... all of which have turned out to be much more dangerous than sashimi.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Happy belated, Sam! Many happy returns!

                I too, as others posting, have never had a whiff of problems with sashimi or sushi (in fact, it seems to sit better with me than anything). The attention paid to the storage and prep is far superior to, say, the potato salad in most diners or the neighborhood's potluck picnic (still love those, too, however...just not as lucky on that particular roulette spin.)

                The sake, though, IS another issue!

                Hope you had a wonderful birthday,
                Cay

              2. Thanks for all the quick replys. I've never heard of anyone getting a parasite, which makes me think that it is rare (if it even happens), however, if someone did get one, or got very ill, I doubt they would go around announcing it to everyone, so it goes both ways. Anyways, again, thanks, and if anyone reading this has anything else to add please do so.

                I'm off to get some sushi.

                3 Replies
                1. re: gms256

                  Not as rare as you might think - just unpleasant enough that most don't talk about it...It can also take awhile for symptoms to show. And its not just sushi/sashimi!
                  http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/08/hea...

                  1. re: meatn3

                    Article has NOTHING to do with sushi/sashimi.

                    Most parasites are very host specific. Most that are adapted to deep-sea fish are not adapted to mammals.

                    A person is taking a much greater risk eating undercooked (non-sushi) salmon, fresh water fish, or Pacific rockfish (aka Pacific red snapper) than sushi because there are some parasites that these critters can get from mammals in their coastal and riverine environments. For example rockfish can get some worm from eating sea lion feces that can affect humans.

                    Nothing like fresh albacore loin virtually at dockside. Yum.

                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                      Article is about ingesting raw fish, specifically fresh water. Also illustrates possibility of acquiring intestinal parasites.