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Parasites Could Be Lurking In Your Sushi: Food Safety Tips To Avoid Anisakiasis

14 May 2017, 8:05 pm EDT By Athena Chan Tech Times
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Test results on a previously healthy man suffering from abdominal pain revealed that he was suffering from a parasitic infection. The parasite apparently came from a recent meal where he ingested sushi.

Parasite Causing Sushi

A 32-year-old man with recent history of ingesting sushi was admitted to a hospital in Portugal after complaints of severe epigastric pain, fever, and vomiting for a week. Upon physical examination, doctors found out that the man had moderate abdominal tenderness.

The report on the case, published in BMJ Case Reports, states that when the doctors conducted a gastrointestinal endoscopy, the culprit was revealed to be a filiform parasite firmly latched onto the man's gut lining. Fortunately, his symptoms were immediately relieved after the parasite was removed.

Where Does Anisakiasis Come From?

Laboratory testing revealed that the parasite in the man's gut was from the nematode parasite genus Anisakis, which, when ingested through uncooked or raw fish, causes Anisakiasis or herring worm disease. In most cases, the parasite is removed via endoscopy or surgery.

Apart from the intestinal lining, the parasites can also attach to an individual's esophagus and stomach.

Anisakiasis often begins when a marine mammal such as sea lions and whales defacate into the sea, eggs are released and eventually become infective larvae while in the water. The larvae are usually ingested by crustaceans, which in turn are eaten by the fish and squid that the humans eat.

In some cases, people report of tingling sensations during or after eating undercooked fish or squid, which is actually the parasite moving inside their mouths. At this point, individuals can still spit or cough the parasite out of their mouths.

The infection happens when the fish or squid ingested by humans are either undercooked or raw, such as in sushi. Once inside the body, the larva can invade the gastrointestinal tract, and though they eventually die inside the body, they often leave the invaded body swollen and inflamed.

Though most cases of Anisakiasis often occur in Japan, the proliferation of sushi eating in the United States, Europe, and other areas of the world has placed more people at risk, though it cannot be transferred from one human to another.

It is difficult to know which sea products are contaminated, so the CDC recommends proper food handling in order to kill parasites and prevent such contamination.

The Core Four Practices

The first among the four core practices in food safety, cleaning comes first. That does not just mean cleaning the food product, but also your hands, as well as the surface and utensils to be used in preparing food.

In addition to cleaning, avoiding cross-contamination must also be avoided in food preparation. This means that raw meat, eggs, poultry, and other food items must be neatly separated in order to prevent the spread of bacteria throughout the kitchen.

Perhaps the most appropriate for the matter of Anisakiasis is cooking. It is important to make sure that different food products are cooked at appropriate temperatures. Ground meat, for example, must be cooked to at least 160 degrees Farenheit, while eggs must be cooked until both white and yolk are firm.

Lastly, proper refrigeration is important to keeping food fresher for a longer amount of time as the cold temperature slows the growth of harmful bacteria. A constant temperature of 40 degreed Farenheit or below would be an ample way to prevent food contamination. In addition, both cooked and fresh food must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours before placing them in the refrigerator.

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