Danger! I think…

The healthy benefits of sushi are far outweighed by the risks. Ironically, there is more risk in the vegetables than in the seafood. (If you encounter difficulty with the terms in italics, try this first.)


1. Produce Contaminants

Insecticides and pathogens, such as E. coli. The sushi itself should be free of both through refining, but the cucumbers, carrots, peppers and other vegetables in the maki or temaki carry the greatest contamination  risk. You encounter the same amount of risk as ordering a salad in your favorite steak house.

2. Mercury

Large predatory fish can carry large amounts of mercury. Doctors, the CDC and the NIH warn pregnant women and those with suppressed or compromised immune systems against ingesting mercury in large quantities.

Large enough doses of mercury can be fatal to adults and fetuses. Birth defects have been linked to mercury. Nigiri, sashimi and chirashi made with predatory fish, like tuna, present the greatest risk in this category. Unless sushi is a staple of your diet (more than six ounces of raw fish per day), mercury is a small risk.

3. PCBs and Pollutants

Pollution-caused water contamination poisons water denizens. Due to the diluted nature of the sources, these contaminants represent only nominal risk and have not been linked to sushi-borne illness. This risk is tiny.

4. Anisakiasis

A microscopic, larval worm, which lives in some fish, can cause a possibly fatal infection. Sushi-grade fish undergoes deep freezing or cooking to a high enough temperature to kill the creatures in order to pass American food standards. (USDA)

5. Tapeworms and parasites

Saltwater fish have virtually no contamination because of the life cycle of the tapeworm. Freshwater fish, like trout, should not be eaten raw because parasites thrive in the warmth of freshwater. Statistically, sashimi consumers are in little danger from this contaminant.

Sushi chef working in a restaurant in Kyoto St...

Image via Wikipedia

Protect me!

Your best is a reputable restaurant which is health regulation compliant. Its fish will be delivered fresh daily and stored at the proper temperature until it is delivered to your table. You will run more risk of a bellyache from eating too much than by contaminated food.

As with everything else you consume, eat in moderation. The omega-3 fatty acids,  vitamin-rich vegetables and nori are good for your heart!


Comments are welcomed on the new poll. Check it out.

NEXT: Picking the right sushi restaurant


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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Who took you to your first sushi bar, and what did you order?

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  1. James Parsons

     /  November 21, 2011

    Still waiting for my partner to take me to a sushi bar, and try real sushi and not packaged stuff. Like I said before I will try anything once twice if I like it.

  2. Never been to a real sushi bar. The closest I’ve ever come is my local Chinese restaurant. And who knows where it comes from.

    • No, that is not the same. The difference between Chinese and Japanese is far more than a small sea. And the packaged stuff does not do it justice. Red.

  3. I don’t remember my first ever sushi experience, but I do remember my first outstanding (and very reasonably-priced) sushi experience:


    My husband had been going there for lunch and raving about it, and finally I tagged along. NOM NOM NOM!

    • Sometimes the first place you try is not the best…Wait until tomorrow’s post to find the secret to picking the perfect place to call home! Good to see you, Red.

  4. You know it is quite sad but one can never be sure how clean a restaurant is no matter how stylish it may appear from the outside, indeed some of the operatives and even some of the chefs used are not always very clean and the simple hygiene protocols such as hand washing is not always adopted, therefore any food handling leaves the consumers open to all kinds of germs…

    To be honest I like to prepare my own meals and that way I know that everything is spotlessly clean, okay so nobody can eradicate every single microorganism, but when eating out, especially in a restaurant that is not familiar to one it can be an extremely risky business…

    Another great posting here
    Red and thank you for offering it 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    • I think that is the reason I feel better about restaurants where I can see the food being prepared. No one can eradicate them all, but I like my chances much better when I am in the one in the toque. Have a terrific night. I await my bite at your newest offering, Red.

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