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Buying Fish for Raw Eating

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

There are a couple of running threads about fish, and they prompt me to ask a question I've been wondering about off and on for some years.


Raw fish in Japan is, of course, almost exclusively Pacific fish. No surprise there. I live on the shore of the North Atlantic ocean, which is some distance from the Pacific. The fish are quite different. Since I can, with some effort, get extremely fresh fish -- straight off the line, in some cases -- I find myself wondering about serving it raw.


The problem is, since this is not normal behavior, nothing is marked "sushi grade" or the like. I mean, you don't see people picking up a slab of "sushi-grade cod" to make sushi at home, right? So assuming the fish is very fresh, and I know it's been handled with care, the health question becomes primarily a matter of odds: some fish are prone to parasites and such, and some aren't especially. Swordfish, for example, is prone to parasites, as is salmon.


So which fish aren't? Is there any way to guess about this?

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post #2 of 3

I don't think a distinction is made per species but this is just my guess as a fisherman that knows a tiny bit about the process that "sushi grade" fish involves. As I understand it, sushi grade fish, are fish that are very fresh, but then held at a specific freezing temperature to kill any parasites. Then the flesh can be considered to be served as sushi grade to the public.


I know fisherman that have caught and then immediately eaten fresh tuna raw. I think what you will find are extremely varying opinions based on what is accepted as standard food safety practices and those that choose otherwise.


Edit: I want to include content from another source to solidify what I was going to say about the "sushi grade" term and the FDA. This site quotes a more direct FDA regulation not as "sushi grade" but as a way to prevent parasites in raw fish consumption as:



The only concern any inspectors have is referred to as the parasite destruction guarantee, which is accomplished by 'freezing and storing seafood at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days (total time), or freezing at -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours, or freezing at -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 24 hours' which is sufficient to kill parasites. The FDA's Food Code recommends these freezing conditions to retailers who provide fish intended for raw consumption.


If you as a healthy individual without a compromised immune system were to eat a raw fish freshly caught you'd probably be fine (key word is probably) probably doesn't work for 85 year old grandma going out for her birthday dinner at the local seafood joint, her risk is slightly higher.


I would never say the same about shellfish like oysters, their potential harm raw is much greater. I personally choose not to eat raw fish, but I thought I should at least chime in with what I do know from others.

Edited by eastshores - 6/13/10 at 11:06pm
post #3 of 3

Sushi Grade is an over used term that has no relevance to the foodie, forager or hunter that knows what he/she is doing.


Generally sedentary (non pelagic) fish have more parasites. I would never consider eating any of the rockfish along the Eastern Pacific raw.


The farm raised salmon of Scotlan and Norway is commonly accepted as "sushi grade"  - it doesn't need freezing and it melts in your mouth.


Where I live the best deal on sashimi is from the albacore fishermen - a 20 lb fish yields 6 lbs of beautiful sashimi for 20 bucks!


There is no blanket generalization per say - you simply must know exactly what you are eating and if it is safe to eat raw or requires freezing.

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