Seafood has been an important part of the human diet since the first hunter-gatherers realized they could use fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals as a food source. Now, almost 10,000 years later, seafood comprises a major part of animal protein consumption all over the world (Huss et al. 2000). In fact, global seafood consumption has been on the rise within the last two decades. The number of consumed seafood products rose from 140 million tons in 2007, to 145 million tons in 2009 (White 2011). This increase in consumption can be contributed to the many health benefits that have been attributed to the consumption of seafood.
When is it properly prepared and cooked, seafood is not only is it a good source of lean protein, it is also a good source of vitamins, minerals, and has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and joint health (Kris-Etherton et al. 2003). However, when seafood is eaten raw or partially cooked, it can cause a myriad of health issues, from mild gastroenteritis to, in extreme cases, death (Rippey 1994). With global consumption continuously on the rise, the number of seafood-borne illness outbreaks has also increased. This paper will discuss the types and causes of seafood-borne illnesses, and possible ways to help reduce the number of annual outbreaks.
Although it is unknown exactly when or where the idea of consuming raw finfish originated, most evidence points to Southeast Asia (Hu et al. 2009). In order to preserve the fish, it was salted and stored in fermented rice to prevent spoilage. When it was ready to been consumed, the rice was discarded and the fish would be eaten raw. This idea eventually migrated to Japan in the 8th century, but instead of using the rice to preserve the fish, the Japanese would wrap the fresh fish in rice and eat it, hence the creation of sushi (Hu et al. 2009).
The consumption of raw shellfish, however, can be dated back to Medieval Times (Ólafsdóttir et al 2004). Coastal and river-dwelling populations would often consume oysters, mussels, and other mollusks as an alternative form of meat during periods of fasting or during special occasions. As time went on, these practices continued until shellfish became a regular part of their diets (Ólafsdóttir et al 2004).
Almost 3000 years later, sushi and sashimi bars, oyster and clam bars, and all-seafood restaurants have gained popularity all over the globe, especially in coastal areas. The popularity of these restaurants has not only increased the world’s seafood consumption, it has also increased the occurrence of seafood-borne related outbreaks (Potasman 2002). For example, China increased increased its bivalve consumption by over 400-fold between 1970 and 1997 (Potasman 2002). Subsequently, the number of seafood related outbreaks that occurred increased to over 800 cases in 1991 (Potasman et al. 2002).
The ingestion of contaminated raw seafood can cause three different types of illnesses: allergic reactions, infectious illnesses,...