Is frozen salmon safe to eat raw? (Benefits & Risks)
In this article, we will discuss whether frozen salmon is safe to eat raw and how to safely consume raw salmon, as well as the proper freezing and thawing conditions, the risks associated with improper freezing and thawing, and the signs and symptoms associated with eating spoiled raw salmon.
Salmon is popular seafood consumed in both raw and cooked forms, as it is an excellent source of various health-promoting nutrients including proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Is frozen salmon safe to eat raw?
Yes, it is safe when frozen and thawed properly. Frozen salmon can be nutritious and taste as good as fresh salmon, but safer than fresh salmon (1,2).
Fresh salmon, if not properly handled by freezing at -4F (-20C) for at least 7 days, can be dangerous when eaten raw, causing foodborne illness due to parasites and microorganisms (2,3,4,5,6,7).
Equally important is the proper thawing (defrosting) of frozen salmon before eating it raw (1,2).
Which part of the world is salmon eaten raw?
Although properly handled raw salmon is consumed in the form of dishes like “sushi” and “sashimi” in Japan, it has become popular globally in various international cuisines including the United States, Norway, and Canada.
“Sushi” refers to vinegared rice combined with raw seafood, vegetables, and tropical fruits, while “sashimi” is typically a thin slice of raw fish accompanied by soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.
What are the nutritional benefits of eating salmon?
Salmon is consumed raw mainly because of its flavour, texture, and nutrition. It has high protein content, healthy fat (omega-3 fatty acids), essential vitamins (B12 and D), minerals (potassium, selenium, and iron), and other micronutrients (astaxanthin), with all of them possessing health-promoting properties (8,9,10).
Raw salmon lovers believe that flavour, texture, and nutrition are preserved in raw salmon when compared to cooked ones.
How can fresh salmon be safely consumed raw?
Properly handled fresh salmon bought from the shop should be rinsed with water, pat dried, and cooked within 2 hours for eating the same day (1,2).
You can store it in the refrigerator (40F or 4C) in a resealable zip-top bag or air-tight container for use within 2 days, while for eating within 3 months, it should be frozen rapidly (-4F or -20C) at a high freezing mode in your home refrigerator (flast or blast frozen). In this way, most of its nutrition is preserved without causing any serious health effects by parasites and microorganisms (1,2,6,11).
If you have bought raw salmon that is not properly frozen, it is important to freeze at -4F (-20C) for 7 days or -31F (-35C) for 15 hours to ensure the complete killing of all parasites and halting the growth of microorganisms (2,6,11).
What is flash or blast frozen salmon?
It refers to freezing salmon quickly reducing the temperature at a faster rate to preserve most of its flavour, texture, and nutrition.
Is thawing necessary before eating raw salmon?
Yes, it is necessary to thaw the frozen salmon before consuming it raw and four proper ways include (1,2):
- Leaving in the refrigerator (40F or 4C) overnight.
- Rinsing in running tap water.
- Placing in a sealed plastic bag and allowing to sink in room temperature water until the salmon becomes pliable (flexible).
- Microwaving in defrost mode until the thawed water is still cold.
Thawed salmon should be cooked within 2 hours or stored in a refrigerator for use within 2 days to avoid the growth of parasites and microorganisms (1,2).
What are the risks of improper freezing and thawing?
If you are buying frozen salmon from the shop, carefully look for the following and be aware of their causes (1,2,11,12):
|the packaging is loose or broken||thawing process has started allowing the regrowth of microorganisms and parasites|
|ice crystal formation on frozen salmon||repeated freezing and thawing has reduced the moisture and quality|
|dry portions on the edges of frozen salmon||freezer burn has occurred|
The properly packed frozen salmon bought from the shop can be stored in the freezer with the same package if you are not using it within 2 days. If you are packing yourself, then ensure proper packing and proper functioning of the freezer before freezing.
Both improper freezing and thawing can lead to the growth of harmful parasites and microorganisms resulting in serious foodborne illnesses, as the freezing only stops their growth and does not kill them completely (1,2,6).
What are the signs and symptoms of eating spoiled raw salmon?
Strong fishy or ammonia smell, not firm, slimy, grey spots or discolouration, and filmy or white residues are some of the signs of spoiled raw salmon (2).
Common symptoms associated with eating spoiled raw salmon include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain or stomach discomfort, weight loss, and anaemia. Although parasites consumed do not cause any acute effects, they grow in the body causing serious health effects over a long time (6).
Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, young children, and people with compromised immune systems should avoid eating raw salmon or eat in moderation to keep themselves safe (2).
In this article we have explored an answer to the question “Is it safe to eat frozen salmon raw?” by discussing the ways to safely consume raw salmon and properly freeze and thaw salmon to avoid risks and preserve both flavour and nutrition. In addition, we have highlighted the risks associated with consuming improperly frozen or thawed salmon as well as the signs and symptoms associated with eating spoiled raw salmon. Based on my expertise in food research, I suggest that raw salmon can be safely consumed if it is previously frozen and properly thawed.
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USFDA, Freezing and Food Safety, Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 2013.
USFDA, Selecting and Serving Fresh and Frozen Seafood Safely, United States Department of Agriculture, 2022.
USFDA, What You Need to Know about Foodborne Illnesses, United States Department of Agriculture, 2022.
USFDA, Foodborne Pathogens, United States Department of Agriculture, 2023.
USFDA, Foodborne Illness and Disease, Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 2020.
FDA, Chapter-5: Parasites, Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance, 2011, pp.91-98.
Daschner A. Chapter 31 – Risks and possible health effects of raw fish intake. Fish and Fish Oil in Health and Disease Prevention 2016, 341-343.
Colombo, S.M., Mazal, X. Investigation of the nutritional composition of different types of salmon available to Canadian consumers. Journal of Agriculture and Food Research 2020, 2, 100056.
USDA, Finfish and Shellfish Products – Dry heat cooked wild Atlantic salmon fish, Agricultural Research Service, 2019.
USDA, Finfish and Shellfish Products – Dry heat cooked farmed Atlantic salmon fish Fish, Research Service, 2019.
1. Dawson, P., Al-Jeddawi, W., Remington, N. Effect of freezing on the shelf life of salmon. International Journal of Food Science 2018, 2018, 686121.
Nakazawa, N., Okazaki, E. Recent research on factors influencing the quality of frozen seafood. Fish Science 2020, 86, 231-244.