Is it safe to eat sushi during pregnancy?

It's usually safe to eat sushi and other dishes made with raw fish when you're pregnant. However, depending on what fish the sushi is made from, you may need to make sure that it has been frozen first.

You should also limit the amount of some types of fish that you eat whilst pregnant, such as tuna and oily fish. For more information, see Should pregnant and breast feeding women avoid some types of fish?

Sushi made with raw fish

Occasionally, raw fish such as salmon contains small parasitic worms, such as anisakid worms, which can make you ill. These worms can cause health problems in people if they eat raw or undercooked fish infected with them. 

Infection with these worms results in a condition known as anisakiasis (or anisakidosis). Symptoms include:

  • severe abdominal pain
  • nausea and vomiting 
  • diarrhoea
  • other gastrointestinal symptoms, including abnormal tissue growth (lesions) in the stomach or intestine

The disease is unpleasant and painful, and in very rare cases can be fatal. Eating fish contaminated with anisakid worms can also cause an allergic reaction.

Freezing raw wild fish kills any worms that may be present and makes it safe to eat.

Certain farmed fish destined to be eaten raw in dishes like sushi, such as farmed salmon, no longer need to be frozen beforehand. This is because farmed fish are very unlikely to contain parasitic worms due to the rearing methods used.

Sushi made with cured fish

Some fish used to make sushi, such as smoked salmon, doesn't need to be frozen before it's used because smoking kills any worms in the fish. Other methods, such as salting or pickling, also make raw fish safe to eat.

Sushi made with shellfish

A lot of sushi contains shellfish such as:

  • shrimps
  • prawns
  • crab
  • scallops

When you’re pregnant, you should only eat cooked shellfish. Raw shellfish can contain harmful viruses and bacteria that can cause food poisoning. For more information, see Can I eat shellfish during pregnancy?

If you eat sushi prepared in a restaurant, ask if the shellfish in it has been cooked.

Sushi from shops and restaurants

Lots of the sushi sold in shops is not made at the shop. This type of sushi should be fine to eat, because if a shop or restaurant buys in ready-made sushi, the raw fish used to make it will have been subject to an appropriate freezing treatment.

Homemade sushi

If you make your own sushi at home, freeze the fish for at least 24 hours before using it.

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 05/02/2013

Next review due: 05/02/2015