Risk to Food Safety Posed by Parasites in Fish for Raw Consumption


Over recent years, more and more consumers have started to appreciate the authentic flavour and savoury taste of different food. A great variety of sashimi is readily available for customers in Japanese or Chinese restaurants, whose delectable taste and freshness have led to its increasing popularity. However, certain types of sashimi are more likely to contain parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms and flukes which are some of the most concerned types. In addition, consumption of sashimi prepared with fish suffering from parasitic infection may lead to allergic reactions or gastrointestinal discomfort. The parasites may as well infest and reproduce in the human intestines to cause serious complications.


  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, both aquacultured and wild-caught fish are susceptible to parasites. In fish farming, the water or feed for fish may be at risk of contamination with parasites. As for wild fish, their living environment is beyond control. Therefore, it is necessary for the aquaculture industry to maintain stringent control over the different process in fish farming, like the quality of water and the feed of fish species intended for raw consumption. An effective parasite control program should be introduced to reduce the risk of parasitic infection of fish for raw consumption.


  Besides vigorous control efforts over fish quality in aquaculture, the “Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products” developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission stated that specific freezing treatment is effective in killing parasites in fish, including freezing fish intended for raw consumption at –20 °C or below for seven days or –35 °C for about 20 hours to kill parasites in fish body.


Advice for the public:

1.        Patronise reputable shops in good hygiene condition;

2.        Both freshwater and marine fish are susceptible to parasites. Freezing and thorough cooking, under well-defined conditions, are the most effective ways of killing parasites in fish to reduce risk to food safety;

3.        Do not eat food showing any abnormalities in appearance, odour or colour;

4.        Spicy or acidic seasonings, such as Japanese wasabi, chili sauce, lemon juice, vinegar and spirits, cannot kill parasites or bacteria;

5.        The elderly, pregnant women, infants, young children and those with weak immunity should not eat sashimi.

Advice for the trade:

1.        Purchase sashimi from reputable suppliers that provide food from safe and reliable source. Before placing any order for fish, find out whether the type of fish is intended for the preparation of sashimi;

2.        When placing an order, request the supplier for the product’s valid and official export health certificates. Keep the purchase and sales records of foodstuffs, or relevant receipts, for source-tracing of food by competent authorities;

3.        To reduce risk to food safety, food operators have to implement appropriate control measures in the purchase, transportation, storage and display of food and follow the recommendations specified in the “General Hygiene Guidelines for Shops Specialised in Sushi or Sashimi and Similar Establishments”;

4.        Pay attention to food alerts and announcements issued by the Food Safety Department of the Municipal Affairs Bureau (IAM). Upon receiving a stop-sale or recall alert from the Centre, the concerned entity has to immediately remove the suspected contaminated fish from sale or supply to consumers and cooperate with the Centre by recalling them.