Is Chicken Sushi a Bad Idea?

Sep 20, 2017

What is Chicken Sushi?

Will the chicken sushi trend, started in Japan, that is growing in the US and throughout the world prove to be a safe way to consume raw chicken?

Or do we simply have another food fad that ignores many of the food safety recommendations? Known as chicken sashimi or chicken tartare, this uncooked(or sometimes “half-raw) chicken dish it can be found on menus across Japan. Now, it is starting to pop-up more on menus state-side as well.

But despite the popularity of this chicken sushi across Japan, along with the increased consumption of raw chicken worldwide, that doesn’t mean raw chicken has become safe.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare warned against food poisoning as a serious potential risk from raw chicken. They asked restaurants to cook chicken to at least 75F degrees internal temperature before consumption. 2011 CDC estimates confirmed these concerns with meat and poultry products accounting for 22% of foodborne illnesses, and 29% of death. This makes them the second most dangerous category of food (leafy vegetables were first).

So, what makes cooking chicken such a concern?

Raw chicken has “a pretty good chance” that one or both of the most prominent pathogens in food poisoning will be present. Cooking the chicken is the only way to kill these bacteria, according to Dr. Chapman, a food safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University. Even cooked chicken that hasn’t been cooked thoroughly is at risk of causing foodborne illness.

These food poisoning culprits are Campylobacter and Salmonella.

Campylobacter is a bacteria that causes gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, cramping, and abdominal pain, and in some cases can also cause nausea and vomiting, the CDC says. There are an estimated 1.3 million cases in the U.S. each year and fewer than 100 deaths, on average, each year from the infection.

Salmonella infections also cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, according to the CDC. About 1.2 million people contract Salmonella each year, and about 450 people die from the infection.

These infections can happen from cross-contamination, poor preparation facilities, and poor storage, and the bacteria can sometimes be found in the gut of the chicken. Often bacteria is present in low, barely detectable but harmful levels. This is why regular testing and making sure that your food is prepared on clean surfaces and using best practices is important. And of course, we can’t forget one of the most important tips for avoiding foodborne illness altogether: making sure your food is fully cooked.

Chicken sushi is still unsafe, the only question remaining for chicken sushi is are you willing to risk these illnesses for the sake of this food fad?

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