How to Make Sure the Salmon You Eat Is Safe

A new CDC study about salmon parasites may be especially upsetting for sushi, sashimi and ceviche fans. Here's what you need to know about preparing salmon.
499653054

499653054

Photo by: northlightimages

northlightimages

The news cycle has just brought word of a super-gross study about salmon that may be especially upsetting for sushi, sashimi and ceviche fans. Basically, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you eat fish that is either raw or undercooked, you open yourself up to the risk of being infected by a tapeworm, including the intestinally invasive Japanese broad tapeworm (aka Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense).

While the Japanese broad tapeworm — which, according to the CDC, can grow to be as long as 30 feet (sorry, squeamish readers) — was previously believed to found only in fish in Asia, the new research indicates that may be found in salmon on the Pacific coast of North America, including in wild Alaskan salmon.

Four Pacific salmon species — chum, masu, pink and sockeye — have been singled out as particular risks because they are transported without having been frozen all over the world, according to the CDC, which published the study in its journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

So what can you do to make sure your salmon is safe? It’s actually kind of basic.

1: Cook it (to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees F).

2: Freeze it (at negative 4 degrees F or below for several days or negative 31 degrees F or below for 15 hours).

“It’s always best to cook seafood thoroughly to minimize the risk of foodborne illness,” the U.S. Food & Drug Administration advises. “However, if you choose to eat raw fish anyway, one rule of thumb is to eat fish that has been previously frozen.”

Freezing out to kill parasites, but it may not do away with every potentially dangerous pathogen, the FDA says. “That’s why the safest route is to cook your seafood.”

Does that mean that you have to give up sushi?

Not necessarily. The risk of getting infected by a tapeworm from raw salmon is “clearly … small,” Patrick Okolo, chief of gastroenterology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, explained to the Chicago Tribune.

William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CNN that the majority of those who are infected with a tapeworm have no symptoms at all, although some may experience “a little bit of abdominal discomfort, some have nausea or loose stools, and some even lose a little weight.”

Although in extreme cases people may experience a “massive infection” that may block their intestinal tract or cause inflammation of the gallbladder, in most cases, a tapeworm is not “dangerous,” Amesh Adalja, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told the Tribune.

Long-term vitamin B12 deficiency, which may have neurological implications, is a risk as well. But the good news is that a tapeworm infection, if detected, can be treated with safe, effective targeted medication. “Praziquantel or niclosamide are used most often,” according to the CDC.

In other words, don’t panic, fish lovers. Just be careful.

Related Links:

Why Should You Care About the Microbiome?

Can’t Take More Steps Each Day? Take Faster Ones Instead

Why Wine Gives You Headaches, and 4 Tips for Avoiding Them

Photo: iStock

Keep Reading

Next Up

Are Bar Snacks and Cocktail Condiments Safe to Eat?

Before you dig in to that bowl of free peanuts at the bar, think about who else has had their hands on them . . . and where their hands have been.

No Bones About It: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Sure Eats a Lot of Cod

If you've ever asked yourself, “Self, what does Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson eat every day?” you now have your answer: cod. A lot of cod.

Is Chicken Sashimi Safe to Eat? (Hint: It’s Raw Chicken)

It’s a trend in Japan, and a topic of hot debate on the web. But will eating chicken sashimi make you sick?

Nutrition News: "Healthy" Trumps "Diet," Eating Snow Deemed Safe, Healthy Fats Could Save Lives

Dieting is out and healthy eating is in; eating snow is safe (with caveats), and one study suggests we should eat more healthy fats.

Healthy Eats Gift Guide: What to Make & Share

‘Tis the season for gift giving. Instead of swapping piles of high calorie foods (there are enough of those to go around already) check out our fresh and fun gift ideas.

How to Make a Candle You Can Eat

Learn How to Make a Candle You Can Eat

Packing a Safe Lunch

A study published in Pediatrics may change the way you pack your child’s school lunch. Find out what you can do to keep your child safe from food-borne illness.

Safely Dealing With Leftovers

Here are some tips for properly cooling and defrosting leftovers -- especially important after those big holiday feasts.

How Safe Is Your Supermarket?

We all buy food from somewhere- the grocery store, farmers’ market, membership clubs, or specialty market. But even these places must follow food safety practices to keep food safe. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Keep your eyes peeled for some of these frequent “ick” factors wherever you shop.