Catch the facts on sashimi tuna

BURNING QUESTIONS

December 26, 2007|By Kathleen Purvis | Kathleen Purvis,McClatchy-Tribune

What makes sashimi tuna more special than tuna? I know it is eaten raw. Is it more susceptible to mercury contamination?

Sashimi is a misunderstood term. The word "sashimi" is the Japanese term for "raw fish." But in America, "sashimi grade" has come to mean high-grade, very red cuts of tuna. However, the term "sashimi" on labels isn't regulated in the United States, so there is no guarantee attached to buying something called sashimi tuna. In this country, fish that is destined to be served raw must be frozen, except tuna, which loses quality if it's frozen.

In most Asian countries, "sashimi grade" means fish that was flash-frozen after being caught, and then was kept very cold until it was sold. Again, exceptions are made for some tunas.

All fish contain some mercury, but some have more than others. Fish that eat plants and smaller fish have the least. Big fish and fish that live longer accumulate more.

The Food and Drug Administration's advisory on mercury in fish recommends that pregnant women, women who are nursing or young children shouldn't eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. They can eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish that are lower in mercury, including most canned tuna, and up to 6 ounces a week of canned "light" or albacore tuna.

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