Sushi recall due to salmonella outbreak sickening 116 US sushi eaters

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Eating raw fish in the form of sushi has sickened 116 people in 20 states, reported the FDA.

More than 116 sushi eaters have been taken ill due to fishy sushi containing bacteria that the body can’t handle, explained a National Public Radio (NPR) report that points to the Food and Drug Administration announcing the recall April 16 after more than “59,000 pounds of yellow fin tuna sickened 116 people in 20 states across the U.S.” In turn, the FDA news release stated how “many of the people who became ill reported eating raw tuna in sushi as ‘spicy tuna.’” Also, the Wall Street Journal reported how the bad sushi outbreak included suspected salmonella that caused the suspect sushi to contain “an unusual bacterium called salmonella Bareilly.”

Sushi is a Japanese food consisting of cooked rice combined with other ingredients, including raw fish. This original type of fish – that’s suspected of salmonella – is raw with the fermented fish wrapped in soured fermenting rice for what is today known as “sushi.” Also, the suspected tuna sushi is often rolled with cucumber and thinly sliced carrots. More recently, avocado has been popular addition in sushi served out on the West coast where this trendy "health food" dish is now a mainstream fast food.

Spicy tuna sushi blamed for outbreak

The fact that there has been “a salmonella outbreak among people who eat sushi isn't super surprising; raw seafood does pose more health risks than cooked fish,” reported NPR April 16. “But the fact that the fish implicated in the outbreak is something called "tuna scrape" sure got our attention. According to the Food and Drug Administration's recall notice, tuna scrape is "tuna backmeat, which is specifically scraped off from the bones, and looks like a ground product."

In other words, tuna hamburger, added NPR.

According to the FDA, the product – “Nakaochi Scrape” - was sold frozen to restaurants and supermarkets, which used it to make sushi, particularly spicy tuna rolls.

In turn, NPR reported how “of the 116 people in 20 states and the District of Columbia who have fallen ill so far, many reported they had eaten spicy tuna rolls. The distributor has recalled 58,828 pounds of the stuff.”

Sushi’s pink slime explained

Also, NPR noted that given all the commotion over "pink slime” - a derogatory moniker for processed beef trimmings – “the notion of frozen tuna goo being used to make sushi is less than appetizing. But is it any more dangerous than regular sushi?”

At the same time, NPR interviewed Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, who said: This was the first he had heard of tuna scrape. “But, there are a lot of things we haven't heard of that the industry is doing."

Doyle also said there are two things to consider when thinking about health and ground up fish. The first is the fact that the tuna scrape is served raw. "My rule of thumb is that raw food of animal origin should be cooked before it's eaten."

In addition, Doyle said the second issue is whether “grinding the fish creates the potential for more problems. That's been the case with hamburger, because contamination from one carcass can be spread through an entire batch.”

"For chicken, turkey and beef, the ground product tends to be more contaminated than the whole cuts," Doyle adds; while also noting: "I don't think enough research has been done on these products.”

Also, he said just because a food has been frozen doesn't mean it's germ-free.

Freezing is good at killing parasites, Doyle says, but bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella often snooze through a freezing, emerging from their slumber just as dangerous as before.

NPR also reported how “more than three-quarters of seafood consumed in the United States is imported.”

Suspect sushi names explained

The sushi outbreak resulted in “12 out of the 116 people have been hospitalized and nobody has died, according to CBS News TV report April 16 after the FDA recall.

The CBS News report listed the sushi outbreak having reached Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Also, ABC News produced a sushi report earlier this month that explained how sushi fans in cities across the world are discovering that “some of the most popular fish can host parasites.”

Although still rare, ABC News showed how “salmon tapeworm infestations tripled from an average of 0.32 cases per 100,000 people each year in Kyoto, Japan, to at least to 1 case in 100,000 people in 2008. As more people adopt sushi and undercooked fish diets around the world so too, has the worm spread.”

In addition, ABC News referenced an article about sushi parasites - printed in Emerging Infectious Diseases – that “tracked the movement of tapeworm infection for 20 years as reports migrated from rural fishing villages in Japan to urban centers around the world, including France, Switzerland and the United States.”

Bad sushi creates salmonella outbreak

The salmonella that invaded human cells due to this recent sushi outbreak, reports, “has federal health officials concerned about possible bad sushi that could be a widespread problem in the U.S. today due to where this tainted fish is coming from.

For instance, a Food and Drug Administration memo describes the outbreak as "rapid and expanding in the number of cases,'' with seven hospitalizations reported, according to the Associated Press. And, no deaths have been reported.

The FDA references spicy tuna rolls as "highly suspect,'' but hasn't confirmed the sushi as the source of the illness.

The FDA also noted how the most common symptoms “of sushi salmonella” are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours of eating the contaminated food. The illness can be life-threatening in people with weakened immune systems.

Also, the Wall Street Journal reported how the fish is likely imported from India and is distributed by California-based Moon Marine USA Corp., which has voluntarily recalled 59,000 lbs. of the product in the wake of 12 people being hospitalized from contracting the food borne illness.

Overall, the number of people sickened by the suspected raw fish is at 116, with the FDA warning consumers to take precautions when eating sushi these days.

Image source of the popular raw fish food called “sushi.” Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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