Can I get tapeworm from sushi?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

There is a risk of getting tapeworm from eating sushi, especially if the fish used in the sushi is raw or undercooked. The Japanese tapeworm parasite, also known as Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense, can be found in certain types of fish, including salmon.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that consuming raw or undercooked fish increases the risk of becoming infected with this tapeworm parasite. Sushi, sashimi, and ceviche are popular dishes that often feature raw fish, making them potential sources of infection.

The tapeworm and its larvae are typically embedded deep within the muscle tissue of the fish. However, the CDC states that the parasite and its larvae can be destroyed when fish is cooked to an adequate temperature. Cooking fish thoroughly helps to kill any potential parasites or bacteria that may be present.

It is important to note that not all fish carry this specific tapeworm parasite, and not all cases of sushi consumption lead to infection. However, the risk is still present, especially when consuming raw or undercooked fish. Therefore, it is advisable to take precautions when enjoying these types of dishes.

To minimize the risk of tapeworm infection from sushi, it is recommended to:

1. Choose reputable sushi restaurants: Opt for establishments known for their high standards of food safety and hygiene. Restaurants that follow proper fish handling and preparation protocols are less likely to serve fish contaminated with parasites.

2. Ensure proper fish sourcing: Fish should be sourced from reliable and reputable suppliers who follow strict quality control measures. Sushi restaurants that prioritize the freshness and safety of their ingredients are more likely to provide fish that has been properly handled and inspected.

3. Ask about fish freezing: Freezing fish can significantly reduce the risk of tapeworm infection. The FDA recommends freezing fish at -4°F (-20°C) or below for a minimum of seven days to kill any potential parasites. If you are unsure whether the fish used in sushi has been properly frozen, it is best to ask the restaurant staff for clarification.

4. Cook fish thoroughly: If you are concerned about the risk of tapeworm infection, you may choose to consume cooked sushi options instead of raw ones. Cooked fish eliminates the risk of tapeworms and other parasites, ensuring a safer dining experience.

5. Practice good food safety at home: If you are preparing sushi or other raw fish dishes at home, make sure to follow proper food safety guidelines. This includes using fish that has been properly frozen or cooked, sanitizing utensils and surfaces, and washing your hands thoroughly before handling food.

It is worth noting that the risk of tapeworm infection from sushi is relatively low, but it is still a possibility. By taking these precautions and being informed about the potential risks, you can enjoy sushi and other raw fish dishes with peace of mind.