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I Want to Eat Sushi, But I’m Worried About Sickness and Parasites. What Advice Can You Offer?

Your chance of getting sick eating Sushi in a US restaurant is 1 in 2 million.

But even then, sushi may not be for you (if you are still worried about the chance of getting sick from eating sushi.)

Statistics convinced me a motorcycle is not for me

I do not ski because the risk is too high for me. My body and reflex is not that great, meaning it responds a lot slower than other people (experienced skiers). Going down the hill at high-speed increases the chance of me falling to break my bones. I know my body is not built for skiing.

Neither motorcycle.

I chose never to drive a motorcycle.

Almost all my friends who ride or used to ride motorcycles told me they got into an accident at least once or twice in their life.

Out of those who got into the accident, they all had some scars on their body. Though not life-threatening, some are serious enough to cause some permanent damage to their body.

I used to have a desire to ride a motorcycle. It represented masculinity, power, style, sexuality, an attractive male. In my teens and twenties, there were times I was considering, “Maybe I could try it once.”

But I never tried, nor I want to try now, especially being over fifty years old.

One of the main reasons is the following statistics:

  • Motorcyclists represent just 3% of all registered vehicles but account for 14% of yearly traffic-related deaths. (US) Running into objects causes nearly a quarter of motorcyclist fatalities.

  • Nearly two-thirds of single-vehicle motorcycle crashes are caused by the rider’s error.

  • Nearly 75% of all motor accidents involve a collision with another vehicle.

Knowing these statistics, I know I should never drive a motorcycle because just like ski, the risk it too high for me. I know my reflexes to be slow that I will be the one to collide with another vehicle :(

Sushi Statistics

(Following is a rough estimate and the analogy I put it together based on the information I gathered online. No numbers are “official” nor am I claim any numbers and calculations to be completely accurate.)

According to the statistics, the number of foodborne illnesses at sit-down dining (restaurant) in the US was 3,733 in 2017.

The number of restaurants in the US was 660,775 in 2018 (I suppose it’s much less now due to the COVID shutdowns.)

Let’s assume 75% of those restaurants are sit-downs (roughly 500,000). Out of the 500,000, sushi restaurants were estimated to be 4,000 (Source: Google Statistic Brain Research Institute).

Based on this, sushi restaurants accounted for 0.8% of the total restaurants in the US.

This means, there was 0.007 case per each sushi restaurant in the US in one year.

Now, let’s assume your sushi restaurant is open six days a week, which will translate as open 312 days in a year, and your restaurant has an average guest count of 100 customers a day.

This will make your chance of getting foodborne illnesses from eating sushi (or any food) at this particular sushi restaurant on one evening out of the year a whopping 0.000022%, or 1 in 2 million.

You have more chances of dying in a vehicle crash in the US — One in 103.

I got sick from eating raw fish twice in my fifty years of living on this planet. Both incidents took place at home. I have never become a foodborne illness dining at a restaurant.

Final thought

Everyone has a different comfort zone. It’s important to weigh in two factors: feeling and facts/statistics. If you can examine the facts and make yourself feel better (which is what I do), then eating sushi, maybe OK for you.

If the argument presented (by you or someone else) is, “Well, many people around the world eat sushi every day, so you should be fine eating sushi,” is not such a good argument because it lacks the hard facts.

I feel OK eating sushi because the chance of becoming sick or catching the parasite is very low:

1) I have been eating it and have not caught one yet (well, only once)

2) Overall statistics tell me the probability is low

3) I know a few things about fish (from eating and being a sushi chef for some twenty years), so I can tell if the fish is OK to eat raw or not.

What I recommend if you want to try sushi without worrying about getting sick is to educate yourself, Learn statistics, talk to other sushi eaters, fishmongers, and sushi chefs. When you have enough information to make you feel OK about eating sushi, you are OK to eat sushi.

But then, at the end of the day, sushi may not be for you, but a motorcycle may be for you.


Kaz Matsune is Founder, Author and Speaker at Breakthrough Sushi. Based in San Francisco, Breakthrough Sushi offers in-person and online sushi-making classes and live sushi bar.

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