Sashimi is an Attractive Food Item, but Be Mindful of Food Safety Risks



Owing to the differences in cultures, customs and eating habits of people across countries, the varieties of sashimi are not limited to marine products. While dining locally and during travel abroad, people will try different kinds of sashimi. For animal and marine products meant to be eaten raw as sashimi, their breeding environment, processing, transportation, handling and display must be subject to sanitary supervision of their local competent authorities. But if the sashimi is improperly handled, the virus, bacteria and parasites which are ubiquitous in the environment may attach onto its surface. These pathogens may enter the human body during ingestion of contaminated sashimi.


The Food Safety Department of IAM detected that two batches of pre-packaged “flying fish roe” were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and had to recall them from the market. These pathogenic bacteria can cause severe complications like septicemia and meningitis. If pregnant women suffer from listeriosis, it may cause miscarriage, infant death and preterm birth. The bacteria survive and multiply under low temperatures but can be destroyed by high-temperature cooking. For the pre-packaged roe (e.g. fish roe, shrimp roe and crab roe) available in Macao, it is usually served uncooked and spread on top of sushi, salad and sashimi to enhance their flavour and taste. People with weaker immune system must be aware of the potential food risks associated with “flying fish roe” before consuming it.


Moreover, there are restaurants offering Korean “Ganjang-gejang” (raw crabs marinated in soy sauce), Chinese “Drunken Shrimps or Crabs” (raw shrimps or crabs soaked in cooking wine) and Japanese sashimi prepared with raw meat of “horse, chicken, pig, cow and their viscera”. Despite being inviting dishes, there have been occasional cases of acute pulmonary schistosomiasis (a parasitic disease) after eating them. Once the eggs of parasites enter the human body tissues, they hatch into larvae, grow into adults and move inside the host’s body where they multiply and become difficult to get rid of them. The victims may suffer low-grade fever, coughing, blood in sputum, chest pain or asthma. In severe cases, the parasites consume the cells and tissues of internal organs to pose health hazards to their hosts. It thus becomes necessary to boil potable water and cook meat thoroughly for safety consumption so as to reduce parasitic hazards.


Lastly, it is advisable to keep in mind that sashimi is “high-risk food” despite there are great varieties of choices, and not to consume it excessively. Remember to clearly consider the health risks associated with eating sashimi before having it.


Advice to the public:

  1. The elderly, pregnant women, infants, young children and those with weaker immune system should not eat sashimi;
  2. Do not use freshwater marine products as well as meat or marine products on sale in market stalls for preparing sashimi;
  3. Pay attention to storage temperature (below 5C) of sashimi and avoid keeping it at room temperature;
  4. Do not eat sashimi showing any abnormalities in appearance, odour or colour;
  5. Spicy and pungent sauces are not bactericidal;
  6. Seek medical advice immediately upon feeling unwell.


Advice to the trade:

  1. Purchase sashimi from reliable, reputable and licensed suppliers;
  2. Keep purchase and sales records of foodstuffs, or relevant receipts for easy source tracing by competent authorities;
  3. During transportation, display and sale of chilled food products, ensure that storage temperature of sashimi is maintained at 5C or below;
  4. Clean the freezer for food storage regularly and keep it clean;
  5. When selling sashimi and sushi, protect them appropriately from contamination by adopting effective measures;
  6. Hands must be thoroughly washed before handling food intended for raw consumption. Wear disposable gloves or use equipment to limit direct hand contact with the food;
  7. Leftover sushi and sashimi from display must be discarded when the shop closes at the end of the day.