My most recent leisure read is Steven Shaw’s Asian Dining Rules: Essential strategies for eating out at Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Korean, and Indian restaurants.
I love food (and culinary cultures) as much as nutrition, so this was a perfect find.
The first chapter — devoted to sushi — includes a short aside titled “Pregnant Sushi.” I thoroughly enjoyed it and wanted to summarize the main points for you:
- In the United States, raw fish is considered a no-no for pregnant women. In Japan, it is considered “part of good neonatal nutrition.” Just in case, I researched this on my own and, sure enough, the Japanese Ministry of Labor, Health, and Welfare only cautions pregnant women to eat fish high in mercury sparingly. There is no mention of “raw fish” as a food to avoid during pregnancy.
- Raw mollusks (especially clams and oysters) are responsible for approximately 85 percent of seafood-related foodborne illnesses.
- “If you take raw and partly cooked shellfish out of the equation, the risk of falling ill from eating seafood is one in 2 million servings; by comparison, the risk from eating chicken is one in 25,000.”
- Foodborne illnesses from fish are mostly caused by cross-contamination or inadequate storage conditions, not by virtue of eating a raw piece.
- Fish served in sushi restaurants has been previously flash frozen, which kills parasites as effectively as cooking.
- “Most of the fish likely to have parasites, like cod and whitefish, are not generally used for sushi. Fish like tuna are not particularly susceptible to parasites because they dwell in very deep and cold waters. Sushi restaurants typically use farmed salmon to avoid the parasite problems wild salmon have.”
The author makes a strong point when he states that “the Japanese government is fanatical about public health… you can be sure that, were there documented complications resulting from pregnant women eating sushi in Japan, there would be swift government intervention.”