Whether you eat it in a restaurant or prepare it at your home, sushi is becoming increasingly popular. However, eating raw seafood carries a greater food safety risk than eating fish that has been properly cooked.
To ensure that you are consuming or preparing the safest product possible, it is important to follow these tips:
- When purchasing or eating sushi, BUY OR CONSUME COMMERCIALLY FROZEN FISH ONLY! The freezing process that the fish undergo commercially helps eliminate the risk of parasites that may be present in the fish.
- In Colorado, this requirement can be found in Section 3-102B of the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations, which states, “…before service or sale in ready-to-eat form, raw, raw-marinated, lightly cooked-marinated, marinated, or partially cooked fish other than molluscan shellfish shall be frozen throughout to a temperature of:
- -4ºF (-20ºC) or below for 168 hours (7 days) in a freezer; or
- -31ºF (-35ºC) or below for 15 hours in a blast freezer.
- Certain tuna species are exempt from this requirement. Section 3-102C of the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations states that fish of the following tuna species ONLY, “…may be served or sold in a raw, raw-marinated, or partially cooked ready-to-eat form without freezing” as specified above:
- Thunnus alalunga
- Thunnus albacares (Yellowfin tuna)
- Thunnus atlanticus
- Thunnus maccoyii (Bluefin tuna, Southern)
- Thunnus obesus (Bigeye tuna)
- Thunnus thynnus (Bluefin tuna, Northern)
- At the grocery store, look for the phrase “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” which indicates that the fish has been commercially frozen according to the procedure listed above. If you have any doubts about the quality of the fish, ask personnel in the seafood department.
- WASH YOUR HANDS!!! Hand washing is the most important step you or the sushi chef can take when preparing sushi to protect yourself and others from communicable disease.
- Store all seafood and raw fish in a refrigerator at a temperature of 41º F or below at all times.
- Sushi rice that is not prepared with vinegar should be maintained cold at 41º F or below to prevent bacteria from growing on it. Preparing sushi rice with vinegar as part of an approved recipe lowers the pH of the rice, making it more acidic and reducing the risk of bacterial growth.
- Prevent cross-contamination by physically separating raw from cooked product. Use separate knives, cutting boards, and rolling mats for raw seafood, vegetables, and cooked foods.
- Refrigerate sushi rolls and sashimi as you finish preparing them and before serving them.
- Wash, rinse, and sanitize all utensils and surfaces after you are finished preparing the sushi.
Individuals who have compromised immune systems, men and women of reproductive age, and pregnant women should limit their intake of raw fish and seafood, or avoid it entirely, due to potential bacterial and mercurial (mercury) contamination.