Is sushi safe to eat in pregnancy?
In a nutshell
Yes, raw fish and vegetarian sushi sold in UK supermarkets and UK restaurants is safe – due to freezing regulations. But shellfish sushi is not safe unless it is fully cooked.
The expert view
The NHS confirms that in the UK it’s safe to eat sushi and other dishes made with raw or other lightly cooked fish when you’re pregnant – as long as the raw wild fish has been frozen first.
The good news is that EU rules mean that fish used in sushi has to be frozen to -20C for at least 24 hours before use, giving you the protection you need.
The freezing process kills any possible parasites, which could otherwise cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in extreme cases, can even be fatal. Cooking fish also kills the parasites.
Farmed salmon is an exception…
Since 2007, some fish such as farmed salmon no longer need to be frozen beforehand, because they are very unlikely to contain parasitic worms due to the rearing methods used.
Therefore, farmed salmon should be fine without pre-freezing.
What about smoked fish, such as smoked salmon?
Sushi made with smoked salmon is also fine, as the smoking process kills any worms in the fish.
Shellfish sushi is not safe
Raw shellfish is not safe to eat during pregnancy, so shellfish sushi, such as prawns, scallops and crab, should be avoided.
Eating sushi in a restaurant
All restaurants in the UK have to adhere to strict hygiene regulations, which include the rule that raw fish for sushi must be frozen for 24 hours beforehand. This is true even if the sushi has been brought in ready-made. If you are in any doubt, either ask the restaurant kitchen to check or choose vegetarian sushi. If you are eating out, you may want to let the restaurant know you’re pregnant.
Buying sushi from a shop or supermarket
Shops also have to meet stringent guidelines, using only pre-frozen raw fish for sushi.
“Although sushi is considered safe for pregnancy, you should make sure it’s kept in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it,” advises nutritionist Dr Rana Conway, who specialises in pregnancy diet and nutrition.
“Don’t buy it on the way to work then keep it beside your desk until lunch time. Pop it in the fridge.”
Making sushi at home
If you are feeling adventurous and make your own sushi at home, freeze the fish for at least 24 hours before using it. Or if you want to be really careful, stick to vegetarian sushi.
Always make sure cooked fish is properly cooked
“It’s important to be careful not to eat raw fish accidentally,” advises Dr Rana. “For example, make sure fish pie is properly cooked before you eat it and if you have a tuna steak, it should be cooked through to the centre, not just seared on the outside. Fish that is intended for eating hot might not have been made safe in the same way as fish for sushi.”
Mums writing on our forum say
“I’ve eaten sushi since becoming pregnant. Not all sushi is raw fish, & I’ve been careful to only eat the type that is in a box with ‘NO RAW FISH’ on it. It’s from M&S and quite nice!” Gsmummy
“Whilst raw shellfish is a no no, raw fish as in sushi/sashimi is fine as it has to have been flash frozen before use in the UK. Which is good as I went out for a Japanese meal with my mum the other week and ate my own bodyweight in raw fish and avocado hosomaki.” Maenad_