MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Eating Raw Fish: Understanding the Risks and Precautions

Raw fish sashimi

Raw fish, commonly found in dishes such as sushi and sashimi, is a delicacy enjoyed by many. However, recent incidents have raised concerns about the safety of consuming raw fish. Parasites and bacterial contamination pose potential health risks.

In this article, we explore the dangers of eating raw fish and the precautions you can take to reduce the risks.

The Dangers 

Considered a high-risk food, raw fish, particularly ready-to-eat (RTE) uncooked fish, is uncooked and contains a higher germ count. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) warns that poor hygiene practices during the preparation process can increase the germ count. This would lead to microbiological contamination. RTE uncooked fish also carries a risk of contracting parasitic diseases. One such disease is Anisakis. Anisakiasis disease has symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

In 2015, a strain of Group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria infected more than 160 people in Singapore. They had eaten dishes containing raw freshwater fish. Two deaths resulted from the outbreak, leading to the banning of the sale of RTE raw freshwater fish in Singapore.

Precautions in Place

Authorities conduct stringent checks and tests on raw fish to detect hazards, including microbial pathogens and parasites. The SFA conducts food safety monitoring guided by a science-based risk assessment and management approach that is consistent with international standards. The industry has also issued guidelines for the proper handling, storing, and processing of RTE raw fish to prevent bacterial and parasitic contamination and keep raw fish safe for consumption.

Reducing the Risks

To reduce the risks of consuming uncooked fish, SFA recommends buying RTE uncooked fish from licensed establishments only and ensuring it is intended for raw consumption. In addition, they recommend consuming only sashimi-grade raw fish and eating it as soon as possible. When buying RTE raw fish, it should be the last item to put in your shopping basket and kept in an insulated bag after. Follow the instructions on the package for handling and storing the fish, and thoroughly wash hands and utensils before and after handling to prevent cross-contamination. It is crucial not to consume expired RTE raw fish.

Conclusion

Taking precautions such as purchasing from licensed establishments, ensuring sashimi grading, and following proper handling and storage instructions can reduce potential health risks posed by consuming unheated fish. Always have proper medications on hand, especially when traveling. RTE raw fish should be consumed with caution, and people with lower immunity, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those with chronic diseases, should avoid consuming uncooked fish altogether. By following the recommended precautions, you can safely enjoy the delicacy of uncooked fish.

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