Can raw fish be eaten safely during pregnancy?

Sushi, maki, sashimi: can I eat raw fish during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the the mother-to-be’s immune system is a bit half-mast, forced to lower his guard to allow the fetus – seen as a foreign body – to develop. The consequence? A generally mild infection can have serious consequences for the health of the mother, but especially that of the baby. Dietary risks for pregnant women are mainly related to the consumption of food contaminated with a bacteria or parasites† Raw fish, a particularly sensitive product, can be affected by both.

Parasitic risks: toxoplasmosis or anisakis?

The first food risk during pregnancy is related to the parasitic infection of food. The best known and most common parasite is the toxoplasmosis† †No risk of toxoplasmosiswhich only infects domestic animals such as cats, horses, cows, sheep, pigs or poultry, but does not develop in the flesh of fish,” reassures the midwife.
In contrast, another parasite called anisakis, can colonize the digestive tract of marine mammals and infect surrounding fish through its eggs and larvae. These infected fish then act as intermediate hosts and can pass the parasite on to humans who taste it. “Fortunately, anisakis is not a parasite that roams the fishmonger’s stalls, and the risk of contamination is very rare!” reassures Christelle Perrin-Fayolle. Infection with the anisakis parasite caused very severe abdominal cramps, fever and diarrhea. If these symptoms occur after eating Sushithe expectant mother needs to go to the emergency room quickly.

Bacterial risks

Four bacteria are particularly harmful to the expectant mother and the fetus: Escherichia colisalmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes† While the first three rarely infect the fish, listeria can, on the other hand, invite themselves into their flesh, and the listeriosis to its consumers.
“The problem with listeriosis is that it continues to grow at low refrigerator temperatures and withstands freezing,” explains the nutritionist dietitian.

Only cooking at a temperature above 65 degrees is able to kill listeria, which can therefore potentially end up in our raw fish sushi and maki.

Although this infection is relatively mild for the mother and at most causes a flu-like illness, it can threaten the development of the baby or even cause birth defects, miscarriagepreterm birth or severe neonatal infection.

But if the risks exist, they remain very low, as in France there are about thirty listeriosis infections in mothers-to-be every year, mostly due to the consumption of raw milk cheese. We charge average about ten intrauterine fetal deaths per year† Very little, given the 800,000 births per year in the country. But small as they are, the risks do exist, and in the name of the precautionary principle, French health authorities advise pregnant women not to eat sushi and maki with raw fish.
However, recommendations that are not shared by all countries, as several of them are not a contraindication to sushi during pregnancy, although the risks are the same from country to country. An article written by physicians and published in the Canadian Family Physician (2) states that “pregnant women should not avoid raw fish if it comes from a reputable establishment, is properly stored and consumed shortly after purchase”. In the same way, the health authorities of the United Kingdom and Belgium also have no contraindication to the consumption of raw fish for pregnant women.

Craving sushi when you are pregnant: which one can you eat?

Vegetarian, avocado, chicken, cooked tuna or shrimp sushi

In order not to take any risks, lovers of Japanese cuisine can completely console themselves with sushi or maki free from fishraw† In fact, on the menu of Japanese restaurants you will increasingly find vegetarian maki with cucumber and avocado, or sushi with omelette, surimi, grilled eel, mackerel, boiled tuna or chicken, for which there is no contraindication. “However, pregnant women are advised to limit the consumption of large predatory fish such as tuna or swordfish – possible sources of heavy metals in particular – to a maximum of one serving per week,” recalls the nutritionist dietitian.
For dessert, some brands even venture to offer recipes for sweet maki, with mango, banana or even chocolate, that you can taste without the guilt!

Can I eat seaweed?

the leaves of‘algae’ nori, used to make lemurs, are red algae whose nutritional composition is very interesting for the mother-to-be. Rich in proteins, iron, provitamin A and omega 3, they provide many essential nutrients for pregnancy. They also contain relatively little iodine compared to other edible algae. “You have to be careful not to exceed the dose of 200 µg of iodine per day, otherwise you could cause thyroid dysfunction,” says Christelle Perrin-Fayolle.
Wakame seaweed salads, which are richer in iodine than nori, should therefore be consumed in moderation by the mother-to-be.

Can I eat raw salmon if it has been previously frozen?

On the other hand, if freezing destroys parasites well, such as toxoplasmosis or anisakis, it does no effect on listeriosiswhich remains the main risk inherent in the consumption of raw fish.

Therefore, pre-freezing your fish before eating it in sushi is not enough to make consumption completely safe for pregnant women.

Ceviche, tartare, carpaccio…: other recipes to avoid!

In addition to maki, sushi and other sashimi, many recipes made from raw fish should be avoided during pregnancy. This is especially the case with Mexican ceviche, Tahitian fish, fish tartare or carpaccio of salmon, sea bass, sea bream or scallops. And no marinade – whether lemon, oil, coconut milk and/or soy sauce – can kill the bacteria or parasites that may be present in the fish.

And the smoked salmon?

Smoked fish, if pre-salted, is nevertheless a fish that has not been cooked and is therefore likely to be contaminated with listeria. Like raw fish, so it is it is better not to consume it during the 9 months of pregnancy† On the other hand, it can be used in recipes intended for cooking: quiches, savory tarts, tarts, pasta…

Leave a Comment