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Buying fresh fish--sorry, unpleasant topic

  • m

A post on the Los Angeles board about finding parasitic worms in fresh salmon got me concerned about how to find these worms. I often buy fresh fish and always rinse before I cook but never examine for worms. Yuk! Are these immediately visible or do I have to poke at the fish a bit? If I found anything living in my fish it would go into the garbage, but if I have cooked these worms, will they be killed and therefore harmless to whoever eats the fish? Yuk, again. Please enlighten me!

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  1. I read much the same story on some website about pork. It claimed that there are maggots in pork which could be dislodged by soaking the pork several hours in Coca-Cola. The whole proposition, whether pertaining to salmon or pork sounds dubious to me.

    On the other hand, I recall Woody Allen's remark about oysters, saying he wants his food dead, not sick, injured or wounded, but dead.

    1. I didn't see the post to which you are referring, but quite a few years ago, I purchased halibut that was caught locally. When I went to marinade it, I squeezed fresh lemon on the filet... A few minutes later, there were wiggily squiggley things coming up out of the flesh. I took it back to the fish monger (who took it back) and he explained that locally caught bottom dwelers (halibut) often eat things that give them parasites and that it was particularly evident in local waters.

      Now I try to buy Alaskan Halibut. Don't know if it's any better because I will NEVER squeeze fresh lemon on uncooked fish again!

      1 Reply
      1. re: janetms383

        I would continue with the lemon. If my fish has moving parts in it, I want to know. Tuna are not prone to parasites, for which I am grateful because I eat a lot of it raw and never frozen. I love swordfish and have had more than a lifetime quota of it, without a bad experience. Maybe I have just been lucky. But I know that one live worm in my swordfish and it would be game over forever.

      2. Parasitic worms are indeed common in a variety of species. Don't get me started on swordfish....

        They are protein, and if you cook it they are killed, present no threat to your physical health, and you generally won't be able to tell. You've probably been eating them all along without noticing.

        1. Karl S is correct. Thorough cooking will kill pathogens and parasites. You have probably been eating them all along and never knew it. Freezing kills most parasites also. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has guidelines on the web if you are interested. This applies to both wild and farm raised salmon.

          1. This topic was covered in great depth here recently: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/302096

            I'll never look at a piece of fish the same again.

            3 Replies
            1. re: BobB

              That thread is three years old and the OP started out with "scrod". A good first step might be to purchase a specific species so at least you know what you are eating.
              This is why fish for Sashimi/Sushi should be frozen before use. Cooking to a proper temp kills worms and parasites but not every one wants their fish killed twice.


              1. re: Fritter

                True, that thread was started three years ago - not that the facts on the subject have changed any since then - but the majority of the discussion took place between January 2009 and last week.

            2. One question I did not see answered in the aforementioned thread is whether brining would kill worms. I know fish live in the sea, but their flesh is no more salty than pork (or ours for that matter).

              It also raised a question. The environment on the inside of a cold water fish is so unlike our own intestinal habitat that I am surprised they would survive a trip though a human stomach and gut. We do not form a part of the normal life cycle of the parasitic worms (unlike tapeworms) and certainly don't pass it back to the cod so it doesn't really make sense that we could be seriously infected.

              Unless of course we can.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Paulustrious

                Even if the parasite couldn't grow and reproduce in a human body they can still cause damage. larval form of any of the Taenia tapeworms that lives in hogs, if eaten undercooked (and therefore underkilled)can infect humans to the degree that the eggs become encysted in the human body and wreaks havoc in vital organs, the brain for example.I've seen them in surgery and on autopsy myself. It's very uncommon, but can happen. I have no idea if parasitic wors from a saltwater fish could do the same thing.