Sushi is gaining more and more popularity. Indeed, these small bites offer a change of scenery, exotic tastes… but also their share of concerns for fragments of the population, including pregnant and breastfeeding women. Several questions arise.
It is not recommended to eat raw fish during pregnancy because of the risks to the health of the future mother and her foetus. Why?
First, because raw fish can contain a parasite called Anisaki that can cause vomiting and severe abdominal cramps. Second, many bacteria can be found in sushi: Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus and Listeria. Also, sushi or uncooked seafood can cause Hepatitis and toxoplasmosis. These infections could threaten the health and development of the baby. For example, Listeria can, among other things, induce miscarriages in the first trimester, birth defects in the second trimester and premature birth in the last trimester.
It is also clearly established that heavy metals (like cadmium and lead) can be found in heavy doses in sushi. It represents a risk for pregnant women and the foetus, which reinforces the recommendation to avoid sushi.
According to several sources, freezing raw fish before consumption destroys parasites in species at risk. However, only cooking could eliminate pathogenic bacteria. Because pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to various intoxications, they should avoid raw fish and sushi.
Since bacteria and parasites are not transmitted in breast milk, breastfeeding women can eat raw fish (and sushi!)
For all: the risks associated with eating sushi
Although raw fish bring its share of contamination, rice also contributes to increase it. Yep, we said rice! The manufacturing process of sushi requires the use of rice at room temperature to which vinegar is added. If the amount of vinegar is adequate, it will inhibit the growth of microorganisms. Otherwise, there is a risk of developing food poisoning.
It is important to remember that the risk of crossed contamination is also very high when making sushi. Indeed, every bite contains many ingredients: fish, seafood, rice, algae, vegetables, mayonnaise, cream cheese, etc. Manipulating these various categories of foods increases the risks of transferring microorganisms from one to another. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to the methods of sanitation and hygiene in place.
Let’s talk about hygiene!
To avoid food poisoning, breastfeeding women, like the rest of the population, should pay attention to the hygiene and sanitation of restaurants serving sushi. The presence of clean working surfaces, the use of fresh ingredients, the refrigeration of ingredients (or use of ice), the use of hairnets and frequent hand washing are clues to identify if proper methods are used when making sushi.
About rice, what can we do?
The vinegar added to the rice gives it an acid pH that affects the growth of microorganisms. Indeed, very few bacteria can survive a pH of less than 4. It is therefore very important to acidify the rice when preparing sushi, especially when prepared at home since rice can remain at room temperature for a long time.
If you prepare sushi at home, ask your fishmonger about the fish species you should use. He will inform you about the species that must be frozen to eliminate the presence of parasites. Make sure to buy fresh fish, vegetables and fruits, to use a clean surface, not to leave your ingredients at room temperature on a long period of time and to wash your hands often.