Home Nutrition How Do You Eat Raw Shrimp Without Getting Sick?

How Do You Eat Raw Shrimp Without Getting Sick?

Written by Jenoye Campbell, LPN

Globally and even since the ancient days, shrimp has been a delicacy that can be prepared in numerous ways.

For some countries, having shrimp is just another ordinary day, while for others, it is an expensive treat for special occasions.

Shrimp is a very versatile protein that can be had in so many styles; steamed, fried, roasted, baked, boiled, curried, and even eaten raw.

The practice of eating raw shrimp originated in the eastern region and is still very much a classy delicacy there.

It is had in the form of sushi, most commonly in areas like Japan and China.

Eating raw shrimp in sushi has also become a popular practice in the western region, particularly in the United States.

I mean, let’s be honest, even if it’s not raw shrimp, just thinking about having shrimp meals makes us so excited.

While both versions are very tasty, the age-old question remains; should we really be eating raw shrimp or should we always be cooking shrimp before we eat it?

Let’s find out!

How to Prepare and Eat Raw Shrimp

Raw Shrimp

What is Shrimp?

Before we dive into the intricacies of “to eat raw shrimp or not to eat,” let’s first take a look at what a shrimp actually is and the types that are available.

A shrimp is a crustacean (a crustacean is a water animal with a hard shell and several pairs of legs) and possibly the most commonly eaten form of shellfish.

Shrimp can be found all over the world and is good for plenty of dishes. You can have frozen shrimp or fresh shrimp depending on where you live or dine.

Types of Shrimps

There are several species of shrimp and they live in freshwater and seawater.

When you are at the grocery store or a restaurant, have you ever noticed that some shrimp are jumbo-sized and others are quite small?

Their sizes are typically dependent on the type and in fact, some shrimp can grow to several inches long.

There are literally hundreds of species of shrimp that are known but we’ll look at the most popularly used and commercially available ones.

They are all categorized as pink, white, brown, and red.

1) Pink shrimps

These shrimps are on the smaller side and have a pink color when raw.

They taste a bit nutty. According to fisheries.noaa.gov, (NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION) pink shrimps have ten slender, relatively long walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs, located on the front surface of the abdomen.

2) White shrimps

The majority of these are wild-caught; however, there are the Chinese white shrimps and Mexican white shrimps, which are farmed shrimp.

White shrimps have a sweet taste and are quite nutty-tasting too.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that the white shrimp’s body is light gray, with green coloration on the tail and a yellow band on part of the abdomen.

3) Tiger shrimps

They are characterized by their stripes and can grow to massive sizes.

The Asian tiger shrimps are native to Indo-Pacific, Asian, and Australian waters.

However, they can now be found at the Gulf coasts of the United States. Some of these are farmed shrimp.

4) Brown shrimps

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. wild-caught brown shrimps is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

They are protected by thick, rigid, hard shells and are said to have more iodine than other shrimp types. Once they are heated, their color changes to pink.

5) Rock shrimps

Rock shrimps are thick and meatier than the above types and can be used as an alternative to lobster.

They are covered in a very hard shell that can be removed before or after cooking.

6) Royal red shrimps

These are often considered the cousins of lobsters and it’s not only because of their bright red color, but they also taste very similar and have an identical firm texture.

Shrimp Sizes

As earlier suggested, shrimps come in several sizes, and the count per pound that is written on the parcel or sold at the market can help you determine the size you need and how many.

The fewer shrimps per pound means the larger they are. Below you will find a list of standard sizes.

  • Extra Colossal- 10
  • Super Colossal- 12
  • Colossal- 15
  • Extra Jumbo-16 to 20
  • Jumbo- 21 to 25
  • Extra Large- 26 to 30
  • Large- 31 to 40
  • Medium- 41 to 50
  • Small- 51 to 60
  • Tiny- 61 to 70
  • Salad Style-over 71

Can You Eat Raw Shrimp?

Would sushi be sushi without raw fish?

I think not, because raw fish is what makes sushi so iconic. It gives the dish its unique and classy edge.

If you are a sushi eater, then you can picture that beautiful piece of raw fish atop a bed of rice.

While the new sushi lover may be accustomed to having tuna and salmon, the veterans will tell you about shrimp and other shellfish and seafood. Shrimp is available raw in sashimi.

However, some chefs will lightly poach it to help meet food safety standards.

Some experts, like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it is relatively safe for healthy adults to eat raw shrimp.

So, that means if you have any underlying condition, particularly people with weaker immune systems, young children, adults age 65 and older, and pregnant women should avoid eating raw shrimp.

Of fact, there is a high risk that raw shrimp may contain many harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites, especially if improperly handled, leading to food contamination.

For example, Raw consumption of contaminated shrimp may result in foodborne illnesses, such as food poisoning.

If not properly cooked, the numerous viruses and harmful bacteria present in raw shrimp sushi and raw seafood, in general, can be harmful to high-risk people.

So, it’s better to avoid consuming raw shrimp or undercooked shrimp.

In fact, if you are not completely healthy, medical professionals advise that we avoid raw seafood and raw meat.

Because of the risks associated with consuming raw shrimp, you should always take your time in preparing the shrimp so they are perfectly cooked to avoid contracting a foodborne illness.

Not only the preparation but also the storage are quite essential.

What Happens When You Eat Raw Shrimp

Even though professional chefs do their best to properly clean and prepare your raw shrimp sushi, some harmful agents may get left behind.

Raw shrimp can contain over seventy varieties of bacteria, including Vibrio.

It is one of the primary pathogens that lead to food poisoning, cholera, and gastritis when you eat raw shrimp.

People with a compromised immune system are unable to combat viruses and bacteria in the raw shrimp.

This makes them more likely to become ill, and for that reason, they are advised not to eat raw shrimps or any raw shellfish.

Although a lot of people have eaten raw shrimp without getting ill, some people have reportedly developed food poisoning, with symptoms including but not limited to:

Food poisoning can be quite serious, and as such, immediately you notice these symptoms, we recommend that you speak to your doctor to provide medical advice and treatment.

Fresh versus Frozen- Which Is The Best?

If you buy frozen shrimps from your local fish market, you are likely getting block-frozen shrimps that defrost while being sold.

It is unlikely that this type of shrimp is fresh, as the method of freezing can have it last several months.

As for the shrimp you see behind the seafood counter at the deli or seafood store, those are typically frozen using a method known as individually quick frozen (IQF).

Individually quick freezing products is done a little after harvesting, which results in tiny ice crystals.

However, the quality is quite good.

For people who live in an area where fresh seafood is caught close by, you may have a local port or shop that sells truly fresh and live shrimp.

But supermarket shrimps are definitely not fresh, so if it’s fresh shrimps that you crave or need, your best bet is a seafood store close to where they are caught.

Also, frozen shrimps should not be consumed raw even if they seem fresh on display.

Frozen shrimp should only be used as cooked shrimp.

Buying shrimps in supermarkets, etc. labeled as fresh is not advised because there is no real way for you to determine how long they have had them.

Remember, if properly frozen, those shrimps can last up to five months.

Buying and Storing Raw Shrimp

If you make your own sushi, when you buy raw shrimps, you want to get the shrimps that are still alive or the next freshest option.

How to know if the shrimps are fresh

There are certain things to look for when buying fresh shrimps, these include:

  • Inspect the shell of the shrimp. They should be looking translucent shiny and translucent.
  • Opt for the ones with the shell on.
  • Pay keen attention to the shell’s color. If the outer shell is discolored, chances are the meat inside will be stale and can make you sick if not fully cooked.
  • Don’t be afraid to check its smell too because that is an essential factor. Smell the shrimps to help you figure out if they are stale or more on the fresher side. They should not be overly fishy, their odor should be very mild.
  • Check for black spots and blackened edges on the shell. Even though the tiger shrimps have black stripes, spots are a no, no.

How to properly store shrimps

To store your shrimp in the refrigerator overnight, keep your fresh shrimp properly wrapped or stored in an air-tight container.

Also, if you need to keep them for more than two days, place them in the freezer.

The ideal temperature for storing fresh shrimps is below 40°F. If the shrimps are alive, a well-ventilated container is ideal for storage.

Also, if you’ve already cooked the shrimp, you can always store it in the freezer but don’t allow it to stay for more than two months or it will lose its flavor and texture.

If you’ve bought frozen shrimp, which again you should NOT eat raw, you can simply keep them frozen by storing them in the freezer.

It is ok to buy frozen shrimp just as long as you ensure before you eat them they are fully cooked.

If you’ve bought your shrimps with the shell on, you need to remove their heads; however, you can easily store them with the shells on and remove them when you are ready to cook the shrimps.

The shelf life of frozen shrimps is up to five to six months. Always store your shrimp appropriately to avoid the growth of bacteria and also reduce the possibility of an increase in food poisoning cases.

How to Prevent Cross-contamination

According to the Food Drug Administration (FDA), you can take these steps to prevent contaminating your food:

When preparing fresh or previously frozen shrimp, it is important to prevent bacteria on the raw shrimp from spreading to ready-to-eat foods.

Take these steps to avoid contamination:

  • When buying unpackaged cooked seafood, make sure it is physically separated from raw seafood. It should be in its own display case or separated from the raw product by dividers.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after handling any raw food.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw foods, such as seafood, and the preparation of cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • For added protection, kitchen sanitizers can be used on cutting boards and countertops after use. Or use a solution of one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
  • If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them, along with plastic, metal, or ceramic utensils through the dishwasher after use.
  • Keep raw shrimp away from other foods and other meats.

How to Prepare Shrimps Safely

Fully cooked shrimp is the safer option for anyone wanting to eat shrimp and especially for persons with underlying illnesses.

To cook shrimp properly, the first thing you must do is purchase and store your shrimp properly.

Next, you would thaw frozen shrimp if necessary.

To further ensure your safety, the FDA has outlined a thorough thawing, cooking, and serving process for shrimps. You can find that process below.

1) Thawing

Thaw frozen shrimps gradually by placing them in the refrigerator overnight.

If you have to thaw the shrimps quickly, either seal it in a plastic bag and immerse it in cold water, or — if the food will be cooked immediately thereafter — microwave it on the “defrost” setting and stop the defrost cycle while the fish is still icy but pliable.

2) Cooking

Most seafood should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F. If you don’t have a food thermometer, there are other ways to determine whether seafood is done.

a) Shrimp, Scallops, Crab, and Lobster:  The flesh becomes firm and clear

Uncooked spoiled shrimp can have sour, rancid, fishy, or ammonia odors.

These odors become stronger after cooking. If you smell sour, rancid, or fishy odors in raw or cooked seafood, do not eat it.

If you smell either a fleeting or persistent ammonia odor in cooked seafood, do not eat it.

b) Serving

Follow these serving guidelines once your shrimp is cooked and ready to be enjoyed.

Follow these serving guidelines once your seafood is cooked and ready to be enjoyed.

  • Never leave shrimp or other perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours or for more than 1 hour when temperatures are above 90°F. Bacteria can cause illness to grow quickly at warm temperatures (between 40°F and 140°F).
  • For party planning, keep hot shrimp hot and cold seafood cold:
  • Keep cold chilled seafood refrigerated until time to serve.
  • Serve cold seafood on ice if it is going to stay out longer than 2 hours.
  • Keep hot seafood heated until time to serve or divide the seafood into smaller containers and keep them in a refrigerator until time to reheat and serve.
  • Serve hot seafood under a heat source (e.g., hot lamp, crockpot, hot plate, etc.) if it is going to stay out longer than 2 hours or discard the seafood after 2 hours.

Final Thoughts

Sushi is a delicacy enjoyed by many; however, its raw component, shrimp, is not exactly safe for consumption.

Also, remember that if you are pregnant, elderly, or have an underlying condition, avoid raw shrimp to ensure that you do not develop food poisoning from one of the many harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites that attach themselves to raw shrimp.

Perfectly cooked shrimp is better for consumption, plus there are so many ways in which you can prepare it.

Remember to be careful when buying shrimp to make your sushi rolls at home. Inspect for color, pattern, smell, and overall appearance.

If you eat raw shrimp, ensure that it is properly cleaned and never use frozen shrimps, opt for the live ones.

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