YouTube link: Removing Worms from Fish
More Videos: Helen's Kitchen Channel
I first wrote about fish parasites 7 years ago (part 1, part 2), and hundreds of comments poured in ranging in their content from incredulity to oaths of never eating fish again. That made me sad. So before you swear off fish, I'd like to ask whether you go on hikes or nature walks on the East coast of the US? What does that have to do with fish? Let me explain.
Ticks are a very common problem in this part of the country and they spread lyme disease. Hopefully, you find the tick, remove it correctly, and get a course of antibiotics. But if you don't notice the tick, you could get lyme disease. In an effort to compare whether fish worms or ticks are more harmful to human health, I looked up statistics for lyme disease in Massachusetts and anisakiasis (gastrointestinal disease caused by fish parasites) in Japan. Why Japan? Because the incidence of anisakiasis in the US is so puny, it's laughable. Japan on the other hand consumes an incredible amount of raw fish and has the highest rate of anisakiasis of anywhere in the world at the whopping 1,000 cases per year ! How many cases of lyme disease do we have in MA? In 2011, we had 1,800 cases and that's not bad, because in 2009, we had 4,000+ cases . Population of Japan is 127.8 million. Population of Massachusetts is 6.6 million. If we do a bit of math (using the smaller 1,800 cases of lyme disease), we get that lyme disease is 35 times more likely in Massachusetts than anisakiasis is in Japan and that's on a good year.
The point of this argument is not to stop you from hiking, it's to explain that the risk of getting sick from a fish worm is way smaller than many other risks you are probably already taking in life.
If you find fish parasites really icky, here are some fish in which parasites are practically non-existent:
- Anything farm-raised except for salmon
- striped bass
- red snapper
- farm-raised salmon