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Do You Give Your Children Raw Fish either Sushi or Sashimi?

michele cindy Dec 5, 2008 09:18 AM

I asked my kid’s pediatrician, if they were old enough to eat sushi, I was surprised when they replied it's better to wait until they're older, in their teens. I asked, was it because of safety issues? They said the main concern is mercury levels are too high for young growing bodies. I was disappointed to hear this, but I will go with his advice. Just wondering what others thought, or did with their kids when it came to sushi. Thanks!

  1. goodhealthgourmet Dec 5, 2008 09:58 AM

    if the only concern is contaminants, you can choose types of fish that are typically lower in mercury & PCB's, and introduce it into their diets in very limited quantities.

    you can find some pretty helpful information online:

    http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/advice/

    http://www.checnet.org/healthehouse/e...

    1. OCAnn Dec 5, 2008 10:23 AM

      I give my young dogs sashimi....

      1. chowser Dec 5, 2008 12:02 PM

        The mercury level is the same whether it's cooked or not and sushi is only bite sized anyway vs. American portions. Are they recommending no fish for children? The last recommendation I've read is the benefits of fish for children and pregnant women outweigh the negatives. I let my son eat it. It's not like he eats a huge amount--just a few maki. I'd think the concern would be parasites more than mercury.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chowser
          michele cindy Dec 5, 2008 01:50 PM

          maybe it's both? on our next visit I'll ask for further clarification.

          1. re: chowser
            b
            bulavinaka Dec 5, 2008 02:32 PM

            Yeah, aside from potential issues with food poisoning - which seem pretty remote from well-reputed sources - I don't get the skull&crossbones on sashimi/sushi. It seems that most are not addressing, say, a huge slab of grilled swordfish that probably has enough heavy metals and toxins in it to put airport security on red alert.

            I've drastically cut back on my seafood consumption, but for other reasons - mostly concerns with overharvesting and the downside of many of the farmed products. I might be sounding like Chicken Little wearing Earth shoes, but with all of the pressures being levied on this planet, if pediatricians can help keep seafood consumption due to their concerns, any reason is a good reason to me.

          2. e
            enthusiast Dec 6, 2008 11:05 AM

            my family is in the sushi biz and my daughter eats a good amount of the stuff. Of all the customers that come in even children as small as 2-3yrs have downed the stuff.
            I don understand your concern as well as I had of my own BUT.... you got to think that in other countries they are doing just fine. And this is not something that you are eating on a daily basis ( and if so , good for you ) to really hinder and influence drastic health outcomes.

            1. Miss Needle Dec 6, 2008 11:24 AM

              For what it's worth, I've been eating raw fish from the age of 3.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Miss Needle
                Sam Fujisaka Dec 7, 2008 08:30 AM

                Good one, Needle. You and me both!

              2. o
                Orchid64 Dec 6, 2008 09:40 PM

                So, you asked a doctor and got his advice, but you're coming to a foodie board to get opinions? I'd wager not one of the people replying to your post even know the symptoms of mercury poisoning without looking them up and have no idea if they've ever been affected by it. Therefore, they can't say whether they've been affected, even in a modest fashion. Some of the symptoms are quite mild (red cheeks or lips).

                There's a good article on this issue here:
                http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22843389/

                4 Replies
                1. re: Orchid64
                  michele cindy Dec 7, 2008 07:03 AM

                  I wanted other peoples thoughts, but as I said, I am following my dr.s advice, but on my next visit will ask for further clarification. When it comes to my kids, I go with what the Dr. says, regardless of others opinions.

                  1. re: Orchid64
                    b
                    bulavinaka Dec 7, 2008 07:26 AM

                    I can see where you're coming from in your view and your intentions are well-intended and valid. Just the same, I've always considered getting a broad array of opinions before coming to my own decision to be of great value. My guess is that the OP is doing this as well. You're probably right - most of us don't know the symptoms of mercury poisoning, but I'm very familiar with its devastating impacts. Growing up as a kid in the 60s, the story of Minamata Bay in Japan were everywhere. My most vivid recollection of press exposure was that of LIFE magazine's photo essay on the devastation that mercury being dumped into the environment caused to expectant mothers, their offspring, and the broad population as a whole. Here's a good wiki on the subject:

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata...

                    With that said, many posters have already given good suggestions as to how anyone can mitigate their exposure to mercury relative to fish consumption, which can affect all living organisms of all ages. Of course there's far more to be discussed in terms of mercury poisoning, the precautions to take, and what to look for. But I am guessing that this discussion is one of many valuable pieces in the puzzle that the OP is putting together. I don't want to presume that the OP is considering our humble posts as better advice than the ped's, but at the same time, I wouldn't want to assume that the OP is developing an opinion in a vacuous state either.

                    I obviously wasn't at the consult between the pediatrician and the OP, but doctors tend to cast a broad net in their warnings nowadays (no pun intended) to cover themselves from liability, just as they perform vast arrays of diagnostic tests to protect themselves from litigation in the event that something was potentially missed. We've experienced this with our kids as well as ourselves - and at times, things are still missed. Compared to 100 years ago, it's a far more complicated world when it comes to health issues, and doctors have no choice but to give broad warnings where they are applicable. And in this particular issue, for the pediatrician to name each particular type of fish to avoid relative to sushi or sashimi, it would be a very complex issue that is beyond his or her scope.

                    1. re: Orchid64
                      Sam Fujisaka Dec 7, 2008 08:35 AM

                      Among others, we work on the effects of mercury on human development in the Amazon. There the problem is natural mercury leached into the rivers from slash-and-burn agriculture combined with consumption of fish high up the food chain. The solution is a change to catching and consuming smaller, father down the chain fish - not popular because such fish require more work, provide less protein, and are less meaty.

                      1. re: Orchid64
                        alanbarnes Dec 7, 2008 09:39 AM

                        The guy's a pediatrician. He's not a marine biologist or an epidemiologist. While his opinion should count for something, it's not the definitive word.

                      2. g
                        grant.cook Dec 7, 2008 05:56 AM

                        Mercury accumulates in large predator fish, so if you are worried about it, stay away from bluefin tuna, for example. But there are lots of sashimi/sushi options that are kid friendly... shrimp, surimi (fake crab used in Cali rolls), etc. Heck, you can have egg sushi. Its probably worth some research, but even smaller tuna species like big eye might not pose as much of a mercury risk.

                        1. E Eto Dec 7, 2008 07:57 AM

                          I think most American doctors will give you a blanket statement re sushi or sashimi as the most widely eaten raw fish are probably those that carry the most health risk (i.e., tuna and salmon). However, if those species of fish are avoided, most sushi/sashimi seem to be perfectly fine. Fish species lower on the food chain have greater health benefits (like mackerels, sea bream, snappers, bivalves, squid/octopus, etc.) and I find them more delicious. By avoiding the larger species of fish, you'll also be doing your part in lowering the demand on the depletion of those supplies, as others have mentioned.

                          1. alanbarnes Dec 7, 2008 09:35 AM

                            Yep. Both my girls have been eating sashimi since they were old enough to have solid food.

                            You do want to pay attention to the total amount of fish consumed in order to keep mercury exposure to a safe level. The feds recommend that pregnant and nursing women and small children avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish entirely, and limit consumption of other fish to 12 ounces per week (except albacore; one ounce of albacore counts as two ounces against the 12-ounce weekly limit). http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/admehg3...

                            So skip the sawara (king mackerel), amadai (tilefish), and kajiki (swordfish). Beyond that, it would be tough to give the kid mercury poisoning at a sushi bar without going broke. 12 ounces is a LOT of sashimi.

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