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Food Poisoning from Sushi: How it Happens and Why

Written by andy

Here’s why sushi isn’t always the healthy choice…

Sushi is a food you can’t help but love! What could possibly be more awesome than perfectly seasoned rice wrapped in crispy dried seaweed (far more delicious than you’d think) and topped with the ingredient of your choice? You may opt for the more classic options like raw fish, fish eggs, cucumbers, or shrimp, or you can try one of the more exotic options–hamburger (yes, it’s a real thing!), eel, octopus, or veggies.

But we’ve all heard of instances when people eat sushi and come down with a pretty bad case of food poisoning. So do you need to worry about it, or can you eat sushi without fear? Here’s what you need to know about food poisoning from sushi…

Why Fish Goes Bad

When you think of food poisoning from sushi, it’s NEVER from the rice or the seaweed. Neither of these two ingredients are likely to spoil, so you have very little cause to worry that you will get food poisoning from either one.

No, the food poisoning from sushi is going to come from the topping: raw fish.

Raw fish, when fresh, is absolutely wonderful for your health. It hasn’t yet been cooked, so the fish meat is still filled with all the nutritional goodness that makes it so awesome. There is still the fresh flavor that makes it the perfect topping for sushi, and it’s completely healthy.

But if the fish is no longer fresh, that’s when the problems start to set in! Fish spoils just as quickly as any other raw meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc.), so if it’s not properly refrigerated or stored, there is a very real risk that pathogens will make the raw flesh their home. In most cases, fish is cooked or smoked before eating, but sushi is one of the very few exceptions where meat is consumed raw.

Freezing the fish meat can kill off parasites, but sushi is usually made with fish that hasn’t been frozen. If the fish isn’t VERY fresh, that’s when the parasites thrive.

READ MORE: Angry Bird Sushi–Not Made with Real Birds

Two of the most common types of food poisoning from sushi are:

  • Ciguatera poisoning — This type of fish poisoning sets in when the fish is infected by toxins from coral, algae, or seaweed, and it’s very common with fish found in tropical seawater.
  • Scombroid poisoning — This is the type of food poisoning that you need to be worried about when eating sushi, as it’s the poisoning that occurs when the fish is “off”.

There are a number of bacteria (E.coli), viruses (norovirus), parasites (anisakis), and toxins that can infect your fish and make it hazardous to your health.

Some of the symptoms of food poisoning from sushi include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Joint and muscle pains

The symptoms will usually show up within the first two days after you consumed the raw fish that has been infected. The severity will usually depend on the amount of fish that you ate, as well as how “off” the fish really was.

Be smart when you eat sushi. Gas station and convenience store sushi is NEVER a good option, as it is exposed to a lot more viruses and bacteria than you’d expect. If you are going to buy sushi at the supermarket, make sure that the fish is as fresh as possible. ONLY eat sushi at sushi restaurants that store and prepare the fish properly, and make sure that they use fresh-caught fish. Better yet, avoid any sushi that contains raw fish, just to be safe!

About the author


Some people get lucky and are born with fit, toned bodies. Andy Peloquin is not one of those people... Fitness has come hard for him, and he's had to work for it. His trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, an NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise, diet and healthy living. He loves to exercise--he does so six days a week--and loves to share his passion for fitness and health with others.

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