A recently published paper has revealed that in August 2014, an amateur sushi chef from Alberta, Canada became the first-recorded case of a person contracting a parasitic worm from raw fish bought at a grocery store in Canada. Yuck.
Reports say that doctors at Calgary’s South Health Campus were perplexed when a 50 year-old man showed up in the emergency room. He was in extreme pain and vomiting perpetually. When gastrointestinal specialists sent a tiny camera down the man’s esophagus, they found anisakis worms, parasites, eating holes in the man’s stomach lining. Worms up to a centimeter long were found burrowing in for the long haul.
The infested fish that caused the horror was bought at Loblaws, which owns Superstore.
While Loblaws was unaware of the infestation, company spokeswoman Catherine Thomas said in an email,
“We have extremely rigorous policies and procedures to ensure the safety of the food in our stores. We do not market any of our fish for raw consumption.”
Is the man ok? Did he recover? Yes. It took a few days, but he was then, reportedly, back to normal. But this case makes you wonder just how safe ALL sushi is, even the wonderful stuff you order on a Friday night in a cozy restaurant downtown.
Thankfully there is a good answer to this. The catch is, there is a big difference between the way this Canadian man prepared his raw fish for consumption, and the way your favorite restaurant likely does it.
The Calgary man’s actions may have been closer to that of a traditional Japanese recipe. Restaurants have rules in place to protect against parasite infections.
In Alberta, restaurants must prepare sushi freeze raw fish below -20 C for at least a week or flash freeze it below -35 C for at least 15 hours. New York city has similar regulations in place to protect against infection.
Making your own sushi has been on the rise in recent years with tips and instructions abounding on Youtube and places like makemysushi.com but doctors are now warning against preparing your own raw fish to eat at home.
Dr. Stephen Vaughn, an infectious diseases consultant is quoted on the nationalpost.com as saying,
“Sushi’s becoming increasingly popular. As more and more people eat sushi at restaurants, they’re going to be inclined to make sushi at home. If that’s the case, we’ll probably see more cases of this.”
Seeing as the current treatment of choice for getting rid of stomach burrowing parasites is to pluck them out one at a time, from a patient’s stomach I don’t think I’ll be making sashimi on my own counter any time soon.
If left untreated, the pain could last for weeks, and the worms could poke a hole in an infected stomach, which could lead to dangerous complications, says Vaughan. Not my cup of tea.
Sushi, in its original form, was first a fermented food consisting of fish wrapped in soured rice, which was discarded leaving only the fish to eat. Today’s contemporary version was invented by Hanaya Yohei, and dates back to the 1800s.