Can you get sick from eating raw salmon?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “can you get sick from eating raw salmon” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not you can get sick from eating raw fish. 

Can you get sick from eating raw salmon?

There can be present many bacteria, parasites, or pathogens on the raw salmon, and by eating raw salmon, you can contract certain infections. 

Parasites in raw salmon

Helminths can be present in the salmon. So if you eat raw salmon they can enter your body. Helminths or the  Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense can stay in your small intestine and can grow about 39 feet long (12 meters).

Symptoms of the helminth infection include weight loss, diarrhea, abdominal pain. It can even cause anemia in some individuals.

Moreover, devouring raw salmon can also result in anisakiasis,  which can happen if you eat a salmon (undercooked or raw) with a parasitic worm in it that can attach to your esophagus, stomach, or intestine and is characterized by abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood and mucus in stool and mild fever.

Bacteria or viruses in raw salmon

When it comes to raw salmon it can have a variety of bacteria or viruses present on it which can cause serious health implications on consumption.

Some of the bacteria and viruses that can be present on raw salmon are Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, Clostridium botulinum, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, Norovirus.

Moreover devouring raw salmon can also result in Scombroid poisoning. In improperly stored salmon, bacteria can produce scombroid toxin. The ingestion of salmon that has this toxin can result in Scombroid poisoning that is characterized by nausea, vomiting, flushing, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headache. 

Other symptoms of Scombroid poisoning may include itching, hives, burning sensation in the mouth, and fever.  

POPs and heavy metals

Raw salmon may also contain many environmental pollutants, they can have traces of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals.

When it comes to POPs, they are toxic chemicals including pesticides, insecticides, flame retardants, industrial chemicals etc. which can get stored in the fatty tissues of the fish, and when such fish is eaten by human beings, it causes certain health implications in them.

Human exposure to persistent organic pollutants can result in an increased risk of cancer, birth defects, immune, endocrine, and reproductive disorders. You can read more about it here.

It is worth mentioning that cooking decreases the amount of POPs in salmon. The amount of the POPs is 26% less in the cooked salmon as compared to the raw salmon.

Other FAQs about Salmon which you may be interested in.

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How to make salmon skin crispy in the oven?

Who should not eat raw salmon?

Certain vulnerable populations are at a higher risk of contracting serious food-borne illnesses and therefore they should refrain from eating raw salmon. They are

  1. Elderly people especially those that are above the age of 65
  1. Children that are aged under 5 as their immune system is weak as compared to the adults
  1. Pregnant women
  1. Immunocompromised people have a very weak immune system and are already suffering from diseases like HIV or the people that have recently got a transplant or have gone through surgery.

Storage conditions

You should always store your salmon at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit therefore it is always advised to store your salmon at a lower temperature to preserve its freshness and quality for a long time.

You should never let your salmon sit out for more than 2 hours. Salmon lasts for about 2 hours when kept at room temperature. You should discard the salmon that has been left in open for more than 2 hours as bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40°F and 140°F, therefore there are greater chances of the salmon being already contaminated with bacteria when left out for more than 2 hours at the room temperature.

It is advised to always store the salmon on the shelf of the refrigerator rather than the door as there can be a lot of temperature fluctuations at the door of the fridge that can degrade the quality of the salmon. It is better to store your raw salmon on the lowest shelf of the fridge to prevent it from dripping into other foods. Fresh salmon lasts for about 1-2 days when stored properly in the fridge at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Always cook the salmon thoroughly till its internal temperature reaches about 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Never store salmon immediately after cooking because if you store the steaming hot salmon in an air-tight container the moisture will build up inside it that can provide a suitable environment for bacteria to grow therefore you should let your cooked salmon cool thoroughly before storing it.

In case you want to freeze the salmon, it is best practice to wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil or thick plastic wrap before putting it in a plastic freezer bag. By doing so you will prevent freezer burns on your salmon.

Raw salmon lasts for about 9-12 months if stored properly in the freezer. On the other hand, if you store cooked salmon in the freezer it retains its best flavor for about 3 months.


In this brief guide, we answered the question “can you get sick from eating raw salmon” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not you can get sick from eating raw fish.