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Thread: Bacteria on Raw fish for sushi

  1. #11
    Senior Member FryBoy's Avatar
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    Michael,

    Thanks for the information -- very interesting.

    Is it your understanding that salt-water fish are less susceptible to infection from bacteria?

    In any case, I'd never eat raw fish from my local supermarkets. I'm reluctant to eat most of the dried out, nasty looking stuff they sell even when it's cooked! They do get some decent salmon, which is a big seller, and occasionally decent tuna and halibut, but I eye it (and nose it) very carefully before buying. I miss having a good fish market nearby!
    Doug Collins
    Hermosa Beach, California

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by FryBoy View Post
    Michael,

    Is it your understanding that salt-water fish are less susceptible to infection from bacteria?
    I'm curious about that too

  3. #13
    No. Not at all. Of the hundreds of fish that I've cleaned and gutted, I've seen bacterial infections and/or parasites in numerous large, saltwater fish, including salmon (soft bacterial spots in the flesh of farmed salmon that spend most of their lives in ocean pens, worms in the flesh of wild salmon), yellowfin tuna (soft bacterial spots in the flesh), as well as smaller saltwater fish like black cod (worms in the stomach of fish and flesh), halibut (orange worms in stomach and flesh), pollack (white worms in stomach and flesh), rock cod (worms in stomach and flesh), ling cod (worms in stomach and flesh), flounder/sole/sand dabs (orange worms in stomach and flesh). Since most of these parasites are in the disgestive tract of the fish, if you are going to eat saltwater fish raw, the safest part of the flesh is the back; sometimes you'll see large colonies of worms/parasites around the belly area of a fish.

    It's been my understanding (from what I've been told and read) that it has more to do with the environment of the bacteria and parasites. Certain bacteria thrive in freshwater, but cannot live in saltwater due to the salinity. Likewise, parasites that are native to salt water, have difficulty (or cannot) survive in freshwater. But other bacteria can live in both. For example, E coli thrives in freshwater, but can survive in salt water.

    I think the logic used to be that saltwater fish were cleaner and safer. Now, I definitely don't buy into this logic. I haven't seen a comprehensive study of the ability of saltwater bacteria or parasites to live in freshwater conditions or vice versa, but I wouldn't risk eating fresh waterfish raw simply because we know that freshwater parasites can affect us.
    Michael
    "Don't you know who he is?"

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by FryBoy View Post
    Michael,

    Thanks for the information -- very interesting.

    Is it your understanding that salt-water fish are less susceptible to infection from bacteria?

    In any case, I'd never eat raw fish from my local supermarkets. I'm reluctant to eat most of the dried out, nasty looking stuff they sell even when it's cooked! They do get some decent salmon, which is a big seller, and occasionally decent tuna and halibut, but I eye it (and nose it) very carefully before buying. I miss having a good fish market nearby!
    Doug:

    Since you're in the LA area, if you have time, go to LA Fish Company and Pacific Fresh Fish in Downtown LA. They're wholesalers but sell retail.

    Otherwise, I'd recommend Japanese markets in the area - Marukai, Niijiya and Mitsuwa. I'm in the South Bay as well.
    Michael
    "Don't you know who he is?"

  5. #15
    Senior Member Salty dog's Avatar
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    Generally speaking fish suited for eating raw comes from specific areas in the ocean where temperature and diet of the fish determine the siutability for sashimi. Specifically the type of algae and plankton present in that geographical area. (think deep cold water)

    Also freshness plays a huge role.

    I've been told that farm raised salmon should be frozen for three days prior to use. Although I don't use farmed for sashimi.

  6. #16
    Very interesting! I am glad we brought up this topic, there are so many considerations. It would be interesting to come up with a list... from optimal to less optimal conditions! But there are so many variations...

    I guess the best possible scenario (For unfarmed saltwater) is fresh, salt water from a specific geographical area that doesn't go on vacations to visit his/her fresh water friends!!, from deep cold water (Think right there! when they pull it from the net, gutting and slicing in a sterile board with an untouched knife and serving sashimi it to the crew right on the boat!). Maybe with a freezing in between?? :biggrin2:

    Those of us who do not live on the coast need to look for Japanese or other fresh fish markets on the area that certify their process and even there, we need to look for signs of bacterial spots and smell, weary of evil salmonellosis among others!

    Now... I have another question... If you just "seal" a piece of Ahi or any other piece of fish.. raw in the middle.. this is really no assurance that there wont be any bacteria right? I mean.. the only way to kill it is cook the actual complete piece above the aforementioned temperature? My point is... if its raw... there is a risk... very slight.. but there is one, right ?

    Thanks to all for taking time to address this topic! I've had these questions for quite a while!!!

  7. #17
    Restaurants in Texas, at least, require that all sushi fish be flash frozen, and kept below zero for 3 days. If it is salmon, the require 6 full days. If you do not do this, you simply put a warning on the bottom of your menu with some severe disclaimer. I would go with something like "eating raw fish is poisonous and will straight away kill you. Eat at your own risk."

    If you "sear" the tuna, and the internal temp does not hit temp required to kill bacteria, you are still exposing yourself to the dangers. Traditionally, sushi is consumed with things that are basically digestive aids--perilla leaf, ground wasabi, pickled ginger, green tea, sake, vinegared rice, etc. Salmonella is not something you will catch from inside the fish, it is caused by poor hygiene of the people handling the fish meat.

    When I am in a good grocery store, I look for various things in raw fish--one is smell(or lack thereof). It should smell like nothing--if there is a LOT of meat, the air will smell slightly crisp, but never fishy. Whole fish should look attractive, good colors, clear eyes, and a healthy build. The meat should look bright, sturdy, and dry, with a consistent quality. If it has been trimmed unusually, either is had bad spots, or someone is cutting it that doesn't know what they are doing(and therefore I do not trust them). The fat should have good color as well. Then I pick based on taste(fatty/less fatty etc). Basically, between keeping fish as a hobby and cutting sushi fish all day, I just go into a store and see beautiful fish, recently living, and meat that looks like I'd be proud to serve it, and I eat it.

    But I still advise you eat all your uncooked sushi and sashimi at a trustworthy sushi bar(preferably a busy one). Sushi at home is more a novelty. As far as not being on the coast, it doesn't matter. Sushi Bars in LA can get fish faster from Tsukiji in Japan than they can from a dock 20 miles away. I worked at a bar in North Texas, and our Tuna got to us on Saturday, and it was swimming off the coast of Argentina on Monday. That's why it costs so much!

    The "best possible scenario" you described is very common. In fact, the newer fad of serving raw fish in italian places as "crudo" was popularized by Dave Pasternack in New York, who is a very avid fisherman, and always carries some olive oil and salt on his boat to eat fish raw right after a catch. They just brought the concept into his restaurant. But while the texture might be best, the flavor, as all meats, benefits from a time of resting, which is really just a mild level of decomposition, breaking up the stuff we taste into nutritionally available forms. The Japanese tradition was to catch a tuna, and bury it in the sand for a day, dig it up, and eat it. It's like aging a steak. If your food is kept in the right temperature conditions, and kept clean, it will dry out and/or rot faster than it will grow any deadly virus or parasite.

  8. #18
    A lot of good information!! Thanks!

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Customfan View Post
    Very interesting! I am glad we brought up this topic, there are so many considerations. It would be interesting to come up with a list... from optimal to less optimal conditions! But there are so many variations...

    I guess the best possible scenario (For unfarmed saltwater) is fresh, salt water from a specific geographical area that doesn't go on vacations to visit his/her fresh water friends!!, from deep cold water (Think right there! when they pull it from the net, gutting and slicing in a sterile board with an untouched knife and serving sashimi it to the crew right on the boat!). Maybe with a freezing in between?? :biggrin2:

    Those of us who do not live on the coast need to look for Japanese or other fresh fish markets on the area that certify their process and even there, we need to look for signs of bacterial spots and smell, weary of evil salmonellosis among others!

    Now... I have another question... If you just "seal" a piece of Ahi or any other piece of fish.. raw in the middle.. this is really no assurance that there wont be any bacteria right? I mean.. the only way to kill it is cook the actual complete piece above the aforementioned temperature? My point is... if its raw... there is a risk... very slight.. but there is one, right ?

    Thanks to all for taking time to address this topic! I've had these questions for quite a while!!!

    I think one important thing to think about and note is the difference between bacteria due to handling, and bacteria inside food. All food has bacteria, inside and out. So there will always be a risk of getting sick from anything as long as it is not cooked to the point where the bacteria die.

    However, given the fact that it is impossible to create a completely sterile environment where one cooks, eating completely "safe" food . . . well, there's no such thing. But, by "searing" the outside, you will have potentially killed any [I]surface[I] bacteria, but not bacteria inside the flesh of the fish. However, most of the harmful bacteria that are the causes for food-related illnesses are (for the most part) surface bacteria, not bacteria within the meat itself. How these surface bacteria get into meat and fish is through improper handling and contamination. If you use one knife on a piece of beef that has salmonella, don't clean that knife well, use it on a fish . . . well you get the idea.

    That's why ground beef is the source of many e coli outbreaks. One piece of bad meat ground with hundreds of pounds of other ground meat, and contaminating a huge grinder that's used for a long shift leads the to massive spread of bacteria.
    Michael
    "Don't you know who he is?"

  10. #20
    Senior Member FryBoy's Avatar
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    Thanks. Downtown is a bit of a trek in L.A. traffic. I am aware of a couple of Japanese markets in nearby Torrance and Gardena -- I'll give them a try one of these days.
    Doug Collins
    Hermosa Beach, California

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