Sushi Lovers, Beware: Eating Raw Pacific Salmon Could Increase Your Risk Of Getting Parasites

A California man was recently diagnosed with having a five-foot long tapeworm in his body after having eaten salmon sashimi almost every day.

According Dr. Kenny Bahn, the emergency doctor at the hospital, said the tapeworm came “wiggling out” of the man while he was sitting on the toilet. Initially, Bahn didn’t believe the claim, but then the man presented a toilet paper roll on which he had wrapped the tapeworm around.

Days prior, the man said he had been dealing with bouts of bloody diarrhea and discomfort. He proceeded to the hospital after thinking part of his intestine had fallen out of his body, but it turned out to be the tapeworm. Bahn immediately put him on  a dewormer medication, similar to that which vets prescribe to dogs and cats.

It’s probably the scariest and most disgusting thing to ever come from eating sushi, but it does happen. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salmon from the Pacific Ocean along the west North American coast are prone to carrying parasites. Cases of tapeworm infection are reported almost every — the most recent warnings were released around this time last year.

The BC Centre for Disease Control says that “ready-to-eat sushi” is considered a potentially hazardous food. Usually, cooking fish destroys all traces of parasites, so eating it raw (as you do with most sushi) poses a risk of being infected with them.

Suppliers in B.C. are advised to follow strict parasite removal processes for fish, which entail freezing them to temperatures of -20 C or below for a week. However, no matter how much processing they go through, raw fish will always come with a risk of getting parasites when consumed.

If you do plan to eat sushi, you should make sure to go to restaurants that have been cleared for food safety. Usually, there is no cause for concern at these establishments. Where you do need to be careful, however, is with pre-packaged sushi — these have longer shelf lives and give bacteria a greater opportunity to grow.