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Eating fresh raw Salmon Sashimi


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#1 genarog

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 02:15 PM

I've been buying salmon from my fishmonger. The place is small and spotless; everything is always fresh.

He tells me that the salmon he gets - both wild and farmed - is fresh and was never frozen.
He tells me that he eats it raw. He's an older guy and I kind of trust him.

I know that salmon is supposed to be frozen first, and read that it actually is frozen one way or another at most sushi places.

Is he crazy? Am I crazy for following him?

#2 slkinsey

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 02:35 PM

First, it is very likely that he is wrong about the fish never having been frozen.

Second, have a look here: http://forums.egulle...howtopic=118193

and here: http://forums.egulle...howtopic=119375

Edited by slkinsey, 19 February 2009 - 02:39 PM.

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#3 Magictofu

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 03:05 PM

First, it is very likely that he is wrong about the fish never having been frozen.

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Could you expand on this? I thought fresh (i.e. unfrozen) salmon was now widely available.


I have eaten homemade sashimi and tartare made with what I believe to be fresh, unfrozen salmon on many occasions. I belive I also ate more than my share of similar dishes from restaurants. I never suffered from any adverse effects and I am not aware of any people I know who suffered from the ingestion of raw fish either (raw shellfish is another story :sad: ) but this does not imply that there are no risks.

I understand that US laws regarding raw fish served in restaurants are different than Canadian laws (and I assume Japanese laws as well). Here (in Canada), serving raw fish is completely legal and I believe the norm.

There is an interesting section on wikipedia about the safety of eating raw fish sashimi (link). It summarizes some of these fish-freezing regulations.

#4 slkinsey

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 03:21 PM

Just because it looks fresh at the fish market doesn't mean it has never been frozen.
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#5 ojisan

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 03:42 PM

Raw salmon is not served as sashimi or sushi. Or at least it shouldn't be. This is why you should think twice before eating at cheap and/or dubious restaurants that serve sushi/sashimi.

Salmon that is served as sashimi/sushi has been frozen, lightly smoked or lightly salted. In Japan, salmon was not a traditional fish for sushi, but became popular in the West, and is now popular back in Japan.

And just because it's fresh doesn't mean it doesn't have parasites - it just means the parasites are fresh.

Edited by ojisan, 20 February 2009 - 01:37 PM.

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#6 Batard

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 03:57 PM

You might mention to your fishmonger that FDA regulations require that all fish sold to be eaten raw must be frozen first. See what he says.

Also, wild salmon carry parasites -- I'm not sure about farmed -- so if your fishmonger is eating it raw, he is probably hosting a whole community of little friends.
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#7 Tussius

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 04:16 PM

Just because it looks fresh at the fish market doesn't mean it has never been frozen.

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The safest way is to fish it yourself or buy it alive. Here we have a fish market where you can buy fish that is swimming around in tanks and thus be certain it's as fresh as possible. I too have been eating fresh, raw fish all my life, either bought or caught, and have only once been food poisoned by fish - at a sushi place that wasn't very good.

P.S. I've been food poisoned three times on shellfish, all in Italy, making it a total of three food poisonings in a 33 year long foodie life.
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#8 Magictofu

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 04:18 PM

This is a bit old, but there used to be a public uproar against a proposal to force restaurant to only use frozen fish in raw applications in Ontario. I found this old petition online on the issue (link). It includes a copy of an article from the Toronto Star. Here's a quote relating to the safety issue:

"In Quebec, we had an outbreak in 1996 where 17 people were affected from eating raw river fish," he said.

However, infectious disease experts in Toronto can't recall any documented cases of people becoming seriously ill with parasites after eating raw sushi.

Keystone said he can't recall any problems in Toronto arising from raw fish used in sushi. "It baffles me this is an issue when we've never seen a case."

Raw seafood can make you sick, but it is "really unusual" to get a life-threatening illness from sushi, said Dr. Allison McGeer, a microbiologist and infectious disease consultant at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Across Toronto yesterday, sushi chefs and restaurant owners whose menus feature raw fish, sashimi, fish tartare, ceviche, cold-smoked fish, and other uncooked seafood items — food favoured by a huge cross-section of the city's diners — were angered over the changes.


At the end, the government back down on imposing new regulations. There is another article on the subject here

Many of the large players in Canada's fish business who have a more direct line to government policy-makers work with frozen fish because it can be cheaper, more reliable, easier to transport and even healthier compared with low-grade fresh fish, which is more susceptible to contamination. And with many untrained cooks entering the sushi business, it was not surprising that health officials started calculating risks.

"Some of their health concerns are legitimate," Mr. Chaim said. "But there are better ways to educate food handlers and benefit the public than through a blanket freezing of fish."


Here's a last article on the Ontario controversy from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (link).

#9 slkinsey

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 04:46 PM

Just because it looks fresh at the fish market doesn't mean it has never been frozen.

The safest way is to fish it yourself or buy it alive.

From the standpoint of potential parasitic infection, there is nothing particularly safe about this whatsoever.
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#10 Batard

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 05:06 PM

I too have been eating fresh, raw fish all my life, either bought or caught, and have only once been food poisoned by fish - at a sushi place that wasn't very good.

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Food poisoning is usually caused from bacteria because the fish or seafood was mishandled. And yes, you feel really sick. But parasites can live inside the human body for years and you would never guess because the symptoms are vague. Constipation, stomach bloating, disease health problems, anemia, asthma, diarrhea, digestive disorders, fatigue, low immune system, nervousness, and skin rash are all known symptoms of parasitic infections.
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#11 genarog

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 05:47 PM

Thanks for all the replies.

Regarding whether the fish was frozen at some point or not, I don't know whether my fishmonger knows for sure it's fresh or he was told it is and he assumes what he was told is true.

Regarding the risk, I'm willing to take some risks with food to a certain degree; I just don't want to be totally stupid about it. I regularly eat beef that is rare or close to raw. But I've been eating like that for many years and I feel very comfortable with beef. I don't feel nearly as comfortable with fish.

#12 nickrey

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 08:34 PM

Raw salmon is not served as sashimi or sushi. Or at least it shouldn't be. This is why you should think twice before eating at cheap and/or dubious restaurants that serve sushi/sashimi.

Salmon that is served as sashimi/sushi has been smoked.

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Not is this part of the world and in Japan where sushi/sashimi originated; whatever gave you this idea?

edited to add: That having been said, you should only ever use high-grade salmon; it is kept quite separately in our fish markets.

Edited by nickrey, 19 February 2009 - 08:38 PM.

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#13 Dignan

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 07:19 AM

I'm pretty sure I've had it in both smoked and raw preparations in the US too.

A menu. It says "fresh" salmon, which I've always assumed was served raw.

Edited by Dignan, 20 February 2009 - 07:33 AM.


#14 Tussius

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 07:45 AM

Just because it looks fresh at the fish market doesn't mean it has never been frozen.

The safest way is to fish it yourself or buy it alive.

From the standpoint of potential parasitic infection, there is nothing particularly safe about this whatsoever.

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I meant "safe" as in "be certain that it's fresh", hence the quote on frozen fish at the fish market. I'm aware of the possible parasites, but they remain very uncommon and most of the time the parasites pass through the body without doing any harm.

I don't know if there's a law on freezing the fish before serving sashimi here, but in the restaurant where I work we get the salmon delivered as "sashimi grade salmon pre frozen", and I believe that's what most restaurants use.

It's completely different to me to serve food that might cause infections to other people compared to eating it, knowing the possible hazards, myself.
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#15 annanstee

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 09:22 AM

Raw salmon is not served as sashimi or sushi. Or at least it shouldn't be. This is why you should think twice before eating at cheap and/or dubious restaurants that serve sushi/sashimi.

Salmon that is served as sashimi/sushi has been smoked.

And just because it's fresh doesn't mean it doesn't have parasites - it just means the parasites are fresh.

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Smoked sashimi? Not in Canada, and not in Japan. I have never even heard of such a thing.

Where I come from, there is no day fishery- The salmon is frozen at sea, as are other local catches with a few exceptions that are kept live (like spot prawns). Such salmon is of very high quality. At the fishmongers, some fish will be sold as "sashimi quality". You do pay a premium. However, I think this speaks more to the quality of the fish, and not necessarily to the safety parasite-wise.
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#16 edwardsboi

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 09:55 AM

You might mention to your fishmonger that FDA regulations require that all fish sold to be eaten raw must be frozen first. See what he says.


So, if all raw fish must be frozen, then does that mean there shouldn't hypothetically be a difference between eating sushi near the ocean and eating sushi more inland like the Midwest since both sources will be getting frozen fish?

#17 Kent Wang

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 10:46 AM

I was under the impression that all good sushi restaurants buy their fish frozen. The idea that the best sushi is unfrozen is something that amateurs thought up. Yasuda (of Sushi Yasuda in New York) told me something like "frozen or not, doesn't matter. And tuna is better after a few days." It seemed like a rant, as if he encountered this question often.

First, it is very likely that he is wrong about the fish never having been frozen.

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Please explain. Not that it matters to me whether it's frozen or not.

#18 paulraphael

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 10:51 AM

You might mention to your fishmonger that FDA regulations require that all fish sold to be eaten raw must be frozen first. See what he says.


So, if all raw fish must be frozen, then does that mean there shouldn't hypothetically be a difference between eating sushi near the ocean and eating sushi more inland like the Midwest since both sources will be getting frozen fish?

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That's generally true.

However, there's some debate surrounding frozen fish for sushi and sahimi. I've heard some sushi chefs say they prefer high quality flash frozen fish because it's fresher than any unfrozen fish they can get their hands on, even if they're in a port town (in other words, damage from freeze is less than damage from time). And I've heard other dispute this.

In addition, some sushi chefs simply disobey the law and serve certain fish fresh. It's usually pretty high end chefs who do this. They get away with it because little is done to enforce this particular law.

#19 Jamon.Iberico

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 12:02 PM

Salmon that is served as sashimi/sushi has been smoked.

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That is absolutely, 100% incorrect.

#20 RobertCollins

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 12:34 PM

Salmon when we catch and eat raw in the Puget Sound, we take to 32° and hold for a day. This we are told will kill the parasitic worms you find in some coastal Salmon. It is served uncooked/unsmoked in all the Sushi places I have eaten at in in Seattle. I save my smoked salmon experience for Bagel joints and usually have cream cheese and capers with it.

Halibut can also have worms and even if you can kill them most [if not all] of what I have been around when wormy has been thrown overboard. I haven't been on a real commercial processor ship so I don't know about them.

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#21 sparrowgrass

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Posted 21 February 2009 - 08:06 AM

Slightly off-topic, but. . . .never feed your dogs the raw salmon scraps. There is an amoeba in raw Pacific salmon that will kill dogs--I lost one this way, and almost lost another.
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#22 nathanm

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Posted 22 February 2009 - 08:03 PM

Eating raw wild salmon gives you a risk of anisakid nematodes.

A reseach team investigated Seattle area sushi restaunts in the early 1990s and found that 10% of the salmon sushi they tested had live anisakid worms in it.

Most, but not all of that certainly had been previous frozen so the worms were dead.

Seattle does get a lot of fresh, unfrozen salmon. Other places do too. So not all salmon is frozen. It ought to be if it is going to be served raw, but often isn't.

Many sushi bars, even very high quality ones, use frozen fish. Tuna is generally not a problem for anisakids, but for freshness and quality reasons it is often frozen - the Tokyo fish market is full of hard frozen fish. The main reason to use frozen fish is better quality - which sounds odd because most people think that frozen is worse. It depends on how the freezing takes and thawing are done - you have have extremely high quality fish that is frozen.

Despite the risk, anisakids only rarely causes illness - as a previous post said 2000 cases a year in Japan is not that many. Even with 10% of Seattle sushi infected, people were not dropping on the street from anisakiasis in the early 1990s.

Anisakid nematodes have been recovered from cold smoked salmon, and other smoked fish. Cold smoking does not get hot enough to kill the worms. FDA regulations hold that you are supposed to freeze fish before cold smoking for that reason but it may not always happen.

Holding at 32F is not sufficient to kill the worms - you need a hard freeze.
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#23 dougal

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 08:03 AM

I've been buying salmon from my fishmonger. ...

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The original post was wholly unspecific about what type (species) of "salmon" was being referred to.

My understanding has been that there was a considerable difference between the hazards relating to Pacific 'salmon' and the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

http://www.ingentaco...000001/art00019?

Abstract:
In the present study, a total of 1,180 samples of muscle or viscera from Norwegian-farmed salmon (Salmo salar L.) were examined for the presence of nematode larvae. The samples represented all salmon-producing counties in Norway. The method applied was based on the degradation of fish soft tissue in an acidified pepsin enzyme solution. None of the samples examined in this study contained nematodes.



I think it matters rather a lot as to exactly what you might be calling "salmon".
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#24 Magictofu

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 12:34 PM

Anisakiasis remains a rare disease. From what I found online (I'll admit that I am no expert at all and online resources are not flawless) there are about 2000 cases per years in Japan, a country of nearly 130 million people most of which eating raw fish many times a week and where there are no bans on raw unfrozen fish. I am sure it is very unpleasant to anyone affected but fortunately it is rare.

Like for so many food products such as raw milk cheese, there are risks associated with the consumption of raw fish. In many countries, including the US, there are laws in place to ban or limit the practice and they should certainly be respected. That does not mean that other people elsewhere are foolish to eat unfrozen raw fish however; often it simply means that public health authorities are taking a calculated risk or that they let consumer decide for themselves.

I would certainly advise anyone who does not want to eat unfrozen sashimi when visiting Canada or Japan to ask questions before ordering.

#25 genarog

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 05:07 PM

As per the fishmonger I'm eating farmed Scottish Salmon.


The original post was wholly unspecific about what type (species) of "salmon" was being referred to.

My understanding has been that there was a considerable difference between the hazards relating to Pacific 'salmon' and the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).



#26 Batard

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 05:29 PM

As per the fishmonger I'm eating farmed Scottish Salmon.

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Isn't farmed salmon worse, in terms of both health and quality, than wild salmon? A lot of studies "prove" that farmed salmon has a greater prevalence of mercury and other industrial chemicals than wild salmon. I'd cite a source, but there has been so much research done that I think this is common knowledge.
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#27 genarog

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 05:44 PM

Quality is great. Regarding the mercury I'll have to research, but my consumption is just 3/4 lb per month or so.

Isn't farmed salmon worse, in terms of both health and quality, than wild salmon?  A lot of studies "prove" that farmed salmon has a greater prevalence of mercury and other industrial chemicals than wild salmon. I'd cite a source, but there has been so much research done that I think this is common knowledge.

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#28 smallworld

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 06:12 PM

As per the fishmonger I'm eating farmed Scottish Salmon.

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Isn't farmed salmon worse, in terms of both health and quality, than wild salmon? A lot of studies "prove" that farmed salmon has a greater prevalence of mercury and other industrial chemicals than wild salmon. I'd cite a source, but there has been so much research done that I think this is common knowledge.

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I don't know if I'd call it "common knowledge", but most studies I've read about show that farmed salmon has slightly lower levels of mercury than wild salmon, and that where the salmon comes from is a bigger indicator of mercury levels than whether or not it was farmed.

As for quality, that's a question of individual taste. I rather like the sweetness and high fat level of farmed salmon, and if the original poster does to, then great.

In any case, the question here is about the safety of eating unfrozen and uncooked salmon, and mercury has nothing to do with that, since freezing or cooking salmon won't change the mercury level.
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#29 paulraphael

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 11:32 PM

This thread got me snooping around online, and now I'm worried. Because 1) wild salmon (the kind I like) seems overwhelmingly prone to parasite infection, and 2) I like to cook it very rare.

Is this stupid? I don't plan to change my habits, but would like to find out if I'm stupid.

#30 dougal

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 07:03 AM

As per the fishmonger I'm eating farmed Scottish Salmon.
...

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I strongly doubt you'll come to any harm.
However, especially for eating raw, you might choose to 'go the extra mile' and get the Organic grade. Lower 'stocking density' (less crowded cages), less problems, less inputs. A little closer to a wild fish - but distinctly paler flesh than standard farmed because of the absence of colouring in the feed.
The main problems with farmed Atlantic Salmon are external parasites, and the treatments used to minimise this problem. Not that great for the environment, or the residues in the fish flesh. Massively less of a problem with the 'organic' regime.


But, for those eating Pacific 'salmon' raw (or very rare), it would be best to ensure that someone has frozen it hard, and kept it that way for a few hours at least. DIY if it hasn't been done for you.

Edited by dougal, 24 February 2009 - 07:11 AM.

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