As a kid, I was freaked out by the mere concept of sushi. Uncooked seafood — like rare meat — seemed risky, dangerous and a little gross. Then I went to college in a big city and discovered that fresh sushi is actually amazing. It was a lot less freaky to eat raw fish of such high quality, but it turns out the cavalier attitude so many of us have about sushi could have serious consequences.
According to the British Medical Journal, parasitic infections are on the rise, and it’s probably because we can’t seem to stop stuffing our faces with sushi. People who eat fish, squid or octopus that contain infected larvae can contract anisakiasis, a disease that can cause all kinds of gastric distress.
If you experience a tender abdomen, severe stomach pain, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea with no apparent cause, think back to the last time you had sushi. If it was recently, you might want to mention to your doctor that you’ve consumed raw fish.
Aside from parasites, raw fish and shellfish can contain a variety of toxins that can cause gastrointestinal distress. The best way to protect yourself is to only eat seafood that’s been thoroughly cooked.
But my guess is that’s not a super-realistic prescription, so there’s also this: Only eat super-fresh raw seafood from legitimate restaurants that have great hygiene and food-storage practices. That means the convenience store sushi you sometimes grab at lunch is not the best idea, but your monthly splurge at the fancy sushi joint near your house is probably a safe bet.
It turns out that sushi, though it’s not the major health hazard I thought it was as a kid, does still have some risks. But hey, as long as you manage those risks and are careful, that mouthwateringly delicious spicy tuna roll is totally worth it, right?