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  • Posted October 24, 2013 by

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    Why You Should Avoid Eating Raw Salmon


    Salmon is a wonderful fish whose trademark bright orange color, rich flavor and many nutrients make it a favorite among chefs from seaside village restaurants to fancy dining establishments and people seeking to eat healthy food. Raw salmon appetizer recipes, such as the popular salmon tartare, made it into many of the top restaurants.


    But it's recommended that you check if the fish used has been frozen first before you eat your favorite raw fish recipes. It's not the meat that you should be aware of, but the tiny tapeworm larvae living in them. Fresh water fish carries the tapeworm called "Diphyllobothrium latum", the largest human tapeworm. It hooks and grows onto the small intestine after ingestion and absorbing nutrients from its host, a typical behavior of parasites. Cooking or freezing the fish to a -31 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for 15 hours will kill the larvae. The methods of preparation of raw fish recipes don't freeze the fish to this extent.


    There had been many reports associated with eating raw or undercooked salmon for as early as 1980s. In the fall of 1980 there were 36 known cases of diphyllobothriasis on the East Coast attributed to raw salmon. In the same year, the CDC issued an advisory after four medical doctors in Los Angeles acquired tapeworms from salmon sushi. In 1984, 17 people in the aptly named village of King Salmon, Alaska acquired tapeworms from eating salmon ceviche prepared from a recipe supplied by a visitor from California.


    While diphyllobothriasis is not life threatening, the tapeworm can grow up to 30 feet long and live for decades, sometimes causing anemia from B12 depletion. Most diphyllobothriasis cases are initially asymptomatic, so they often go undetected; people can live with a tapeworm for years without knowing they have one. Some make the unhappy discovery after passing a segment in their stool. Others learn of their cohort after seeking treatment for symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fatigue, and nausea.


    How likely is it that you will get a tapeworm if you eat raw, unfrozen salmon that contains a tapeworm larva? According to Phillip Klesius, research leader at the USDA Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory in Auburn, Alabama, “The consumption of one live larva can result in tapeworm infection.” So until you find out if that salmon has been frozen first, it would be best to hold your fork.



    Source: Why You Should Avoid Raw Salmon by Jon Rowley, August 2008

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