Eating Raw Fish Meals: Safety Measures and Diseases

Eating Raw Fish Meals: Safety Measures and Diseases

With the Lebanese diversified gastronomic taste and the countless restaurants offering a variety of national and international cuisines, eating raw fish has become increasingly common in Lebanon. Dishes of raw fish have grown in popularity; thanks to their presentation, taste and flavor.

However, the worldwide consumption of this culinary treat goes hand in hand with a rising concern about the high risk of infections due to the ingestion of raw fish.

It is therefore vital to shed light on the importance of some mandatory principles for the conservation and distribution of raw fish. “To avoid infections, the measures taken should be faultless as restaurateurs rely on the integrity, equipment and knowhow of the suppliers and distributors,” stresses Dr. Gaby Moukarzel, Dean of the Faculty of Public Health .

Dr. Moukarzel enumerates the main diseases caused by raw meals as follows:

If badly preserved, raw fish can be infested with Listeria, a prominent bacterium responsible for listeriosis, which is a rare but potentially serious and lethal disease that causes meningitis, especially in children and immunosuppressed patients.

Anisakiasis is another microbe present in the muscle and viscera of a number of fish. This parasite is extremely allergen and can lead to anaphylactic shock, a low blood pressure secondary to allergic reaction following the intake of raw fish carrying Anisakiasis.

The Diphyllobothrium is also found in fish; it’s a tapeworm that invades the gastrointestinal tract through the consumption of raw or undercooked fish and causes diphyllobothriasis. This giant parasite is the largest among tapeworms infecting humans and can grow to reach several meters, causing anemia by iron deficiency.

Each of these three diseases is treated with specific medications, though in some cases of diphyllobothriasis a surgery is needed to get rid of the parasite if there is intestinal obstruction.

Chefs and restaurant managers are unable to conclude whether the fish they are having is infected or not; the suppliers, however, play a crucial role in ensuring a flawless chain of conservation and distribution for a safe and enjoyable raw fish consumption.  

Dr. Gaby Moukarzel, Dean of the Faculty of Public Health