A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Is homemade sushi dangerous?

Dear Straight Dope:

After years of mocking the stuff I have discovered that I really like sushi. However, one of my original criticisms still lingers in my mind, especially when I see fish in the market and contemplate preparing some "home-style" sushi for myself: what is appropriate sushi-grade fish and can I make it for myself? And what diseases do I threaten to roll up? What can I be expected to contract? I've never gotten sick from the stuff, but "raw" still equates with "dangerous" in my mind when I think of fishflesh (not to mention beefflesh and swineflesh).

Hi Danjette!

After perusing your letter, I decided to try the FDA and see what they had to say about sushi. As far as a "sushi-grade" fish goes, any really fresh fish that you buy is safe, as well as fish that is frozen (in a commercial freezer, which runs at a lower temperature than home freezers) and thawed under correct conditions. You can make sushi yourself; I have several friends that do and find it enjoyable.

OK, here's the part that will freak you out. What you might contract by eating raw fish, aside from some wonderful pesticides (which are stored more in fish with fatty deposits, like salmon), are salmonella, botulism, hepatitis A, and some really nasty gastrointestinal diseases. Cecil has also written about the danger of (urk) intestinal worms. The FDA recommends that anyone with reduced autoimmunity--like cancer, AIDS, and hepatitis sufferers--and those that have gone through gastrointesinal surgery, or had a bout in the past, stay away from eating sashimi (which is technically what sushi made with uncooked fish is called). Pregnant women and children should excersise caution when partaking, as well. You can find out more by going to the FDA Website at http://www.fda.gov

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