Janice Stanger, PhD

Janice Stanger, PhD

Posted May 25, 2015

Published in Health

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Sushi Dangers

Read More: FDA, raw fish, raw milk, sashimi, sushi

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Raw Fish and Raw Milk Are Not Healthy

Upbeat myths have boosted the image of raw animal foods, such as sushi, sashimi, and raw dairy products. Claims that these foods are somehow more "natural" and nutrient-rich than after they are cooked promote this raw fad.

Yet uncooked animal foods can be so hazardous that even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is hardly known for its aggressive protection of public health, warns the public forcefully to watch out. The higher risk of eating such foods includes getting infected with parasites and disease-causing microbes. Dairy and fish are unhealthy even when consumed pasteurized or cooked, but may take longer to do their damage. Infection hits fast, and is acutely unpleasant at best, life-threatening at worst.

Raw Fish Perils

The FDA last updated its Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Control Guidance, a 476 page manual on the dangers of fish (however it is prepared) as food, in 2011. Most of the included concerns would be common to both raw and Thumbnail image for anasakid_whole CDC fish roundworm.jpgcooked fish, and are described in this sampling of chapters of the manual:

  • Pathogens from the harvest area
  • Parasites
  • Natural toxins
  • Scombrotoxin (histamine) formation
  • Other decomposition-related hazards
  • Environmental chemical contaminants and pesticides
  • Methylmercury
  • Aquaculture drugs
  • Pathogenic bacteria growth and toxin formation as a result of time and temperature abuse
  • Metal inclusion
  • Glass inclusion

While these are certainly not all the potential dangers of eating fish, the FDA has made a good start!

Let's see what the FDA has to say about parasites, quoting from the Hazards manual. "Parasites (in the larval stage) consumed in uncooked and undercooked seafood can present a human health hazard...Most of these parasites cause mild-to-moderate illness, but severe symptoms can occur. Roundworms may embed in the intestinal wall and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain and sometimes may penetrate the intestine. Tapeworms can cause abdominal swelling and abdominal cramps and may lead to weight loss and anemia...Some intestinal flukes may also migrate to and damage the heart and central nervous system."

In case anyone is still not impressed, the FDA goes on to inform readers "A survey of U.S. gastroenterologists confirmed that seafood-borne parasitic infections occur in the United States with sufficient frequency to recommend preventive controls during the processing of parasite-containing species of fish that are intended for raw consumption."

Click here to read more about the stomach-churning dangers of raw fish and dairy