Why You Should Think Twice About Ordering Ceviche At A Sushi Restaurant

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Raw fish lovers, unite! Is there anything quite as exquisite as seafood that hasn't had its succulent, fresh-from-the-ocean flavor dried out by heat? Most people associate raw fish with sushi, but perhaps you've expanded your palate to include ceviche, which is finely cut raw fish marinated in citrus juice. These two delicacies actually come from very different cultures and culinary traditions; sushi is a staple at Japanese restaurants, while ceviche is a Latin American specialty (per Chowhound). But because the primary ingredient is the same – raw fish – you sometimes see ceviche on the menu at a sushi restaurant. 

Before you dig those chopsticks into a ceviche bowl, though, award-winning food safety and nutrition expert Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, the Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook, has a warning for you. In an interview with Mashed, she pointed out that you could be reeling in more than delicious raw fish when you order this Peruvian treat at a sushi restaurant. That's because cross-contamination can put you at risk of intestinal parasites.

How you can get sick from ceviche

According to Amidor, the lack of heat used in the preparation of ceviche might mean inviting some unwelcome visitors to your dinner plate. "Ceviche is fresh raw fish that is prepared in citrus juice with herbs and spices," she explained. "Because the fish isn't cooking with heat, it has an increased chance of containing pathogenic microorganisms."

One of the most dangerous of those microorganisms, Amidor added, "is a parasite known as anisakiasis." This species is a type of worm that can slither its way into your intestines from uncooked or undercooked fish, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting an anisakiasis infection is no fun; symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, blood in the stool, rashes, and a fever. But, if you're picky about where you order your ceviche, you avoid this infection, Armidor added. "Dining at a [high quality] restaurant or purchasing sushi grade fish that has been sliced and frozen properly can help minimize the risk," she explained. Whether you're eating sushi or ceviche, the Food and Drug Administration advises that you only eat previously frozen fish, as the freezing will destroy most of the parasites.