Shrimp is a type of crustacean enjoyed globally.
Their shells are hard and see-through, and their color can vary from brown to grey. Depending on the species, they can have a sweet flavor and a texture that ranges from tender to firm.
Even though shrimp are a much-loved food item in many places, there’s a common notion that eating them raw is unsafe.
This article delves into the safety of consuming raw shrimp.
Is eating raw shrimp safe?
Raw shrimp are enjoyed in various cultures around the world. For instance, in Japan, raw shrimp sashimi is common, and in China, people sometimes consume the shellfish live after soaking it in a potent liquor known as baijiu.
However, shrimp can carry bacteria, viruses, and parasites that may cause foodborne illnesses.
In the U.S., shrimp is one of the most widely eaten types of shellfish and makes up half of all global shellfish farming. It’s rich in key nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and iodine.
That said, the only surefire way to kill any harmful organisms in shrimp is through cooking them at high temperatures.
For this reason, consuming raw shrimp is generally considered unsafe and poses a risk of food poisoning.
Summary: While shrimp are a nutritious and popular food, eating them raw is risky due to the potential for food poisoning.
Potential risks & dangers of eating raw shrimp
One out of every six people in the U.S. faces food poisoning each year.
Eating raw shrimp increases your chances of getting food poisoning or other food-related illnesses.
The risks lurking in raw shrimp
Raw shrimp frequently carry a type of bacteria known as Vibrio. There are over 70 different species of this bacterium, and 12 are known to be harmful to humans.
Research on 299 raw shrimp samples found that 55% contained Vibrio species that could lead to issues like stomach inflammation, cholera, and infections.
Another study focused on farmed shrimp found that they carried 100 strains of Vibrio, some of which were resistant to antibiotics.
Moreover, in a survey of 10 seafood processing plants in Nigeria, every single shrimp sample was found to have Bacillus bacteria, which is commonly tied to symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.
The health concerns of eating raw shrimp
Food poisoning commonly occurs from consuming foods contaminated with bacteria. Symptoms often include nausea, abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhea.
Most cases of food poisoning—over 90% in fact—are due to bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Vibrio, or Bacillus, which can all be found in raw shrimp.
Additionally, the norovirus, an easily spread virus, is often associated with consuming raw shellfish, including shrimp.
Globally, about 1 billion cases of diarrhea-related food poisoning happen each year. In the U.S. alone, over 5,000 people die yearly from foodborne illnesses.
Therefore, groups with weaker immune systems—like older adults, pregnant women, and young children—should be especially cautious and avoid eating raw or undercooked shrimp, as they’re at a higher risk of severe illness.
Summary: Consuming raw shrimp can put you at risk for harmful bacteria and viruses that may lead to severe illness or death. Vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, should be particularly cautious to avoid raw or undercooked shrimp.
How to safely prepare shrimp
Eating raw shrimp can pose a risk due to potential contamination with harmful bacteria and viruses, leading to food poisoning. As such, it’s imperative to cook shrimp correctly to ensure they’re safe for consumption.
When buying shrimp:
- Source quality: Make sure you purchase shrimp from a reliable source. Look for certifications or labels that guarantee the shrimp has been processed safely and in accordance with food safety guidelines.
- Storage: Fresh shrimp should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within four days. For longer storage, shrimp can be frozen and kept for up to five months.
- Thawing: If you have frozen shrimp, the safest way to thaw them is in the refrigerator. Remove the shrimp from its packaging and let it thaw in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. This method ensures a controlled environment that limits the proliferation of harmful bacteria.
- Preparation: When getting ready to cook, wash the shrimp thoroughly under cold running water. This helps in removing any dirt or contaminants on the surface. Maintaining proper kitchen hygiene is also crucial, ensuring that other food items are kept separate to prevent cross-contamination.
However, it’s essential to understand that these preparation techniques, while limiting bacteria growth, won’t eradicate them completely. This means that consuming raw shrimp, even if meticulously prepared, can still be hazardous.
Suggested read: How long does chicken last in the fridge?
Cooking: To ensure the shrimp is safe for consumption, cook them until they turn opaque or have a pink hue. Additionally, you can use a food thermometer to check that they’ve reached an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). Cooking enhances the flavor and ensures that most harmful pathogens are eliminated.
Summary: While there are methods to reduce bacterial growth in raw shrimp, proper cooking is the most effective way to ensure safety. Purchasing, storing, preparing, and cooking shrimp correctly is essential to mitigate the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Shrimp is a favorite seafood loved by people all over the world.
Eating it uncooked can be risky because it might have dangerous bacteria and viruses.
Although fully cooking raw shrimp is the only way to completely eliminate harmful germs, there are certain prep methods that can help reduce the risk of illness.