How can you eat raw fish?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how can you eat raw fish” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not you can eat raw fish and the ways in which you can eat raw fish. Moreover, we are going to discuss the possible health implications of eating raw fish.

How can you eat raw fish?

When it comes to raw fish, you can eat a fish that was properly frozen for about a week at -4 degrees Centigrade, or in the case of thawed fish, it is recommended to put the fish on ice in the fridge and devour it within a couple of days. 

Freezing the fish renders the bacterial growth on it as -4 degrees Centigrade potentially ceases the growth of all parasites but that does not mean that the frozen fish is completely bacteria-free. 

If you have not properly frozen the fish or if it stayed out for too long before freezing, then a lot of bacteria would have already found a way to it. Thus, freezing, in this case, would just stop the further bacterial growth but the bacteria that have already found their way to the fish before freezing would be there.

Health implications of eating raw fish

Parasitic and bacterial problems

Consumption of raw fish can result in many food-borne illnesses especially in vulnerable populations. It can also result in anisakiasis,  which can happen if you eat raw fish with a parasitic worm in it that can attach to your esophagus, stomach, or intestine. Moreover, the presence of Salmonella or Vibrio vulnificus can result in food poisoning that is characterized by abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

  1. Diarrhea is an indication of the body that a certain obnoxious agent has entered. So consumption of bacteria-laden raw fish often causes diarrhea. Therefore you should drink plenty of water to compensate for the water loss that the body experiences owing to diarrhea.
  1. Food poisoning after consuming bad raw fish is characterized by abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is also accompanied by vomiting and nausea in most cases.
  1. If you have consumed raw fish that has bacterial growth on it then you will experience nausea and vomiting which is the natural defense of the body to get rid of the unwanted harmful substance that has entered the body. Persistent vomiting can result in electrolyte imbalance in the body as well as it can lead to severe dehydration, dizziness, flushed skin, and weakness. It is advised to drink plenty of water to save the body from dehydration as severe dehydration can even lead to shock.
  1. Consuming raw fish that has microbial growth on it will also raise your body temperature and you can experience fever which is the natural defense mechanism of your body and is the indicator that something is off with your body.

Therefore if you have consumed raw or undercooked fish and now are suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, then you should immediately take medical help and try to drink as much water as possible so that while the body is getting rid of the toxins in form of diarrhea and vomiting, the water that you drink will protect your body against dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and dizziness that vomiting can otherwise result in.

POPs

Moreover raw fish contains more pollutants and POPs as compared to cooked fish. POPs or Persistent organic pollutants are hazardous, industrially manufactured compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl esters (PBDEs).

POPs are known to accumulate in fish, particularly farmed fish such as salmon. The main culprit appears to be the use of contaminated fish food. High levels of these pollutants have been linked to chronic diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.

According to one study, the amount of POPs in cooked salmon was around 26% lower than in raw fish of the same species.

Heavy metals

Moreover, toxic heavy metals, such as mercury, are also a source of worry for public health. Another study discovered that the amount of bioaccessible mercury in cooked fish was 50–60% lower than in raw fish.

How to minimize risks associated with the consumption of raw fish?

You should keep in consideration the following points while buying and storing fish.

  1. In case you are planning on eating fish, it is better to eat fish that is frozen at -4 degrees Centigrade for about a week.
  1. You should do a sensory evaluation of your fish before deciding whether it is still suitable for consumption or not.
  1. Only buy fish that is properly refrigerated or is placed in ice.
  1. Smell the fish for any off-smells and if the fish smells sour or overly fishy, it is better not to use it.
  1. You should never leave your raw fish for more than an hour or two at room temperature. Raw fish lasts for about 2 hours when kept at room temperature. You should discard the uncooked fish that has been left in the 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 raw fish being already contaminated with bacteria when left out for more than 2 hours.
  1. You should wash your hands, utensils, and kitchen surfaces that come in contact with raw fish properly.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “how can you eat raw fish” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not you can eat raw fish and the ways in which you can eat raw fish. Moreover, we discussed the possible health implications of eating raw fish.

Citations

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eating-raw-fish#:~:text=Additionally%2C%20raw%20fish%20should%20be,minimal%20risk%20to%20your%20health.
https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/safety-tips/food/is-raw-seafood-safe-to-eat
https://www.seriouseats.com/how-to-prepare-raw-fish-at-home-sushi-sashimi-food-safety
https://lifehacker.com/why-you-can-eat-raw-fish-but-not-other-raw-meats-1792502180
https://www.eatingwell.com/article/17876/6-common-myths-about-freezing-foods/#:~:text=Freezing%20foods%20renders%20bacteria%20inactive,that%20your%20food%20is%20safe.

Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.