Attention Sushi Lovers: Tapeworm Now Found in U.S. Salmon

The Journal of Clinical Microbiology published a study where it was shown that approximately twenty million people are believed to have tapeworms. If you haven’t had an experience with this parasite so far, then you’ll have to be even more cautious now, especially when buying salmon.

It’s been confirmed that Diphyllobothrium latum – also known as the Japanese broad tapeworm – has made its way into fish in America by way of the Asian Pacific.

What Is the Japanese Broad Tapeworm?

Tapeworms are type of parasites that live in humans’ and other mammal’s intestines and feed on the food you consume, which results in severe weightless. Their bodies are ribbonlike with a small head that has hooks and suckers coming from it. Tapeworms can also segment themselves so that a big tapeworm can split into many smaller independent tapeworms.

The Japanese broad tapeworm can reach up to thirty feet.

Signs and Symptoms of Infection

Here are the common signs of tapeworm infection:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency (potential for anemia)
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Gall bladder disease

Clinical Microbiology Reviews published a study in 2009 where they called our attention to increasing popularity of eating uncooked and raw fish. According to the study, uninspected imports of Pacific pink salmon could lead to a rapid and massive increase in Diphyllobothrium infections.

The lead researcher of the following study that’s been published in CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases recently is Roman Kuchta.

Around two-thousand cases of the Japanese broad tapeworm infection have been reported up until recently. Kuchta stated that in relation to the human population, this figure is very small. He added that most of these reports are based in northeastern Asia.

Recent events warn the people in the U.S t be extremely cautious when purchasing salmon or products containing salmon, as researchers have found the tapeworm in wild pink salmon from the Alaskan Pacific.

Five species of wild salmon from local Alaskan coast fishermen have been analyzed by Kuchta and his team. They discovered samples of Pink salmon that contained larvae from the Japanese broad tapeworm.

According to Kuchta, the tapeworm infection tends not to be dangerous in that only about twenty percent of infected people suffer effects such as diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Ultimately, the study aims “to alert parasitologists and medical doctors about the potential danger of human infection with this long tapeworm resulting from consumption of infected salmon imported (on ice) from the Pacific coast of North America and elsewhere.”

How to lower the risk of getting infected

Sadly, current research and the apparent minimal risk may not be enough to keep people from eating their salmon or raw fish. According to Amesh Adalja, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America “the risk of contracting the tapeworm from your sushi is low – but it exists.” But, if think it’s better to be safe than sorry, then avoid salmon as much as possible.

If you have already bought salmon, freeze it the fish for a few days.This will ideally kill the Japanese broad tapeworm and other parasites.

The FDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of at least 145° F (~63° C), or try these freezing methods:

  • -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days (total time)
  • -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid, and storing at -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours
  • -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 24 hours


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