Is Kinilaw safe to eat? (3+ risks)

In this article, we will discuss whether Kinilaw is safe to eat, what are the risks of eating Kinilaw, who should not eat Kinilaw, and how to prepare a Kinilaw to reduce its risks.

Kinilaw is a traditional Phillipinian dish made with uncooked seafood and vinegar, similar to ceviche. It is also called Kilawin in some places.

Is Kinilaw safe to eat?

No, Kinilaw is not safe to eat, as it is made with uncooked seafood. Uncooked seafood is not safe to eat and is especially not recommended when pregnant and for children, elderly individuals or immunocompromised individuals (1).

Several food outbreaks have been reported due to the consumption of raw and undercooked seafood, including Kinilaw (2, 3). Bacterial and viral infections and parasite infections can occur as a consequence of eating contaminated seafood.

What are the risks of eating Kinilaw?

The risks of eating Kinilaw are foodborne diseases, as summarised in the table below (1, 2, 3, 4):

Risk Description Possible symptoms

Trematode infection or fluke infection

Infection by a trematode (fluke) such as Clonorchis sinensis, Paragonimus and Fasciola hepatica. Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, malaise, peptic ulcer-like illness, mucosal ulceration. In severe cases, it can lead to malnutrition and anaemia.
Bacterial infection Bacterial infection is caused by bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus and Listeria monocytogenes. Diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, headache and fever. 
Virus infection Infection caused by a virus such as hepatitis A, hepatitis E, norovirus, and others Diarrhoea, dehydration, destruction of the mucosal tissue of the intestines

Histamine (Scombrotoxin) poisoning 

Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of seafood contaminated with an elevated amount of biogenic amine, especially histamine. Histamine is produced by microorganisms in the decomposition of proteins Skin rashes, urticaria, bronchospasms and respiratory distress

Who should not eat Kinilaw?

Pregnant women, elderly individuals, children and immunocompromised individuals should not eat Kinilaw (3). Kinilaw is considered an unsafe food and a possible risk for foodborne illnesses in every situation (1, 2).

However, individuals who have a weakened immune system are about 10 times more susceptible to foodborne diseases. The prolongation of the disease can lead to severe consequences, such as dehydration, hospitalisation and even death (3).

For instance, severe cases of infections caused by the bacteria L. monocytogenes in pregnant women can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. Other immunocompromised may have septicemia and meningitis (3).

Is it possible to reduce the risks of eating Kinilaw?

Yes, it is possible to reduce the risks of eating Kinilaw by freezing the seafood at a temperature of 0 °F (-18 °F) for 24 hours before use (5). Frozen storage helps kill parasites that are possibly present in the seafood.

However, parasites may survive in frozen storage and freezing seafood is not 100 % safe to eliminate the risk of infection. In addition, Freezing does not kill bacteria or viruses and therefore is only a partial reduction of the risks of eating Kinilaw (1). 

How can you increase safety of eating Kinilaw?

To increase the safety of eating Kinilaw, you should make sure that the seafood used to prepare the dish is fresh. Follow improved hygienic practices to prepare the Kinilaw and be aware of additional safety tips (1, 2, 4):

  • Seafood should have a pleasant odour, a pearl-like colour and fresh looking.
  • Avoid any seafood that has an off-odour, such as ammoniacal, rancid or “fishy”.
  • Look for inspection certifications in the package or in the store.
  • Keep seafood always at refrigerated temperatures and avoid repeated freezing and thawing cycles.
  • Consume seafood within its shelf life.
  • If seafood is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator and not at room temperature.
  • Use salt, vinegar and lemon to improve the safety of Kinilaw and do not keep the dish unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
  • If you are dining out, choose a trustworthy restaurant.
  • Avoid uncooked or undercooked seafood when pregnant.


In this article, we discussed what are the risks of eating Kinilaw, how can you reduce the risks, who should not eat Kinilaw and how to increase the safety of eating Kinilaw. 

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