Seizures of fish with Anisakis larvae are increasing. The precautions to be taken when eating raw fish

Seizures of fish with Anisakis larvae are increasing. The precautions to be taken when eating raw fish

In the summer months, the seizures of Anisakis-infested bluefish intensified. The problem concerns the larvae of this parasite visible to the naked eye (they measure from 0.4 to 20 millimeters) located in the bowels of many of the fish species, as shown by a study conducted by the Institute of Food Inspection of the University of Milan and published on Food Control. In 2008, out of 561 fresh sea bass caught in the North-East Atlantic sea, the presence of the parasite was highlighted in 65-85% of fish in relation to weight. In Italy it is found mainly in blue fish, but also in farmed fish grown in tanks located in the open sea. Another research signed by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Bari in 2005 and published in the monthly Industrie Alimentari,

«The question is delicate – explains Aniello Anastasio, professor of hygiene and food technology at the Veterinary Faculty of the Federico II University of Naples – because the habit of consuming raw fish at the table is growing. In supermarkets and restaurant menus there are proposals for “raw carpaccio” based on freshwater fish such as perch, trout and carp that can transmit parasites to humans ». The Anisakis problem also concerns farmed fish grown in tanks located in the open sea ». A test conducted in 2009 by Altroconsumo on sushi served in 19 Japanese restaurants in Milan and Rome, did not find the presence of larvae in the dishes served but showed that only three places freeze the raw material as required by the EC 853/04 regulation. The use of frozen product for raw fish dishes must always be indicated on restaurant menus. Paradoxically, this law does not appeal to consumers who consider frozen fish a second quality product compared to fresh fish. Restaurants do not readily indicate on menus that sushi is made with frozen fish, even if it is a legal requirement.

The issue is not just about sushi, but also anchovies, herring and mackerel served raw marinated with lemon and / or vinegar and cold smoked fish as well. «Identifying the parasite is simple – explains Valentina Tepedino, veterinary surgeon, director of the  Eurofishmarket magazine, who has dedicated a dossier on this topic in the last issue   – because the larvae are visible to the naked eye. If the fish destined to be eaten raw is not cooked or frozen, and the cleaning of the entrails is poorly done, the larvae can migrate into the meat, be ingested and cause annoying gastro-enteric disorders ». In Italy the cases of anisakidosis registered each year are 20-30 (1000 in Japan). The figure is approximate because the disease often resolves with a stomach ache after a few hours after ingestion.

«The problem must be solved – continues Anastasio – by explaining to lovers of raw or marinated fish that freezing is necessary. The other important aspect concerns the national law which requires a different approach considering the general principles of the food law. The Anisakis problem exists, but it is necessary to do a correct risk analysis knowing that the issue is solved by cooking and freezing. Today the legislator accepts minimum levels of chemical and microbiological contamination for all foods. The consumer must realize that zero risk in the food sector does not exist, and certain precautions must be taken to reduce it to acceptable levels ». As on egg labels, refrigeration is recommended,

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