Giant Tapeworm Debacle Calls Sushi’s Safety Into Question

Fagjun | Published 2018-01-24 03:16

A California man who claimed to eat sushi everyday may now be rethinking his dietary choices after he reportedly passed a five and a half foot long tapeworm.

Is eating sushi dangerous?

Is eating sushi dangerous?


Warning: this isn’t the best story to read while eating—especially not while eating sushi. Dr. Kenny Banh shared a story about a man who came to the emergency room he worked at on a recent episode of the podcast “This Won’t Hurt a Bit”, in which experts share fascinating medical stories. Dr. Banh said that the young man came in complaining of bloody diarrhea and saying that he’d like to be treated for tapeworm. Usually, Dr. Banh said, patients who say they may have tapeworm were worried over nothing. In this instance, however, the patient didn’t even need to be tested.


The man carried a plastic grocery bag that Dr. Banh initially thought carried the stool sample. Instead, it carried a tapeworm as long as an actual person.

Nightmare Tapeworm

You may need to think twice before eating raw salmon.

You may need to think twice before eating raw salmon.


The patient said that he noticed blood in his stool after going to the bathroom. However, that wasn’t all. He also noticed that there was something else sticking out of his rear. He apparently feared that it was actually part of his intestines and started pulling.


And he kept pulling, until he realized that whatever it was that he just pulled out of his body was moving. Anyone might have been horrified, but the man was more relieved that at least parts of his body wasn’t actually falling out of his butt. He then coiled the five foot, six inch worm around a cardboard toilet paper core and took himself to the emergency room.


Dr. Banh was baffled as to how the tapeworm managed to enter the patient’s body, until the patient divulged that he ate salmon sashimi every single day.


This explained a whole lot, since many salmon species carry Diphyllobothrium nihokkaiense, or the Japanese broad tapeworm. While cooking salmon is enough to kill this tapeworm, eating the salmon raw puts you at risk of ingesting tapeworm larvae. This is because when salmon is shipped, they’re usually put on ice instead of frozen. Thus, the larvae can survive the whole way from the depths of the ocean to the plate of sushi in front of you.

What’s Wrong With Frozen Fish?

Next time you want to eat raw seafood, ask if it had been frozen or simply kept on ice. [Photo via Shutterstock]

Next time you want to eat raw seafood, ask if it had been frozen or simply kept on ice. [Photo via Shutterstock]


Usually, however, tapeworms aren’t dangerous. In fact, they can live in a human intestine undetected for years. However, there are rare instances in which a tapeworm can block your intestines or even cause vitamin B deficiency. Also, all it takes to get rid of a tapeworm is a single dose of deworming medication. Even so, however, no one wants to have a parasite living inside of them.


If you like sushi, you may now be asking if this same thing can happen to you. Experts say that if the sushi or sashimi you eat had come from a frozen fish, then you’re likely safe from the parasite. However, many prefer their sushi to have come from unfrozen fish, since freezing is said to affect the flavor. Still, one study has found that people are unlikely to be able to tell the difference between frozen and unfrozen fish.


Thus, if you don’t want to have to pull a feet-long tapeworm out of yourself, it’s best to cook your seafood, or ensure that it was previously frozen.

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