Can You Eat Raw Shrimp? The Answer Will Surprise You!

image of is raw shrimp safe to eat

Raw shrimp, pink is a popular delicacy in Japan, China, and other Asian countries. However, it remains to be one controversial food item.  Based on its nutritional value, raw shrimp contains good amounts of proteins, fats, and other trace minerals. (*) However, most people claim it’s unsafe to eat raw shrimp because of its risks.  With that said, can you eat raw shrimp?

Short answer:

Yes, you can eat raw shrimp, but it comes with various health risks. To minimize such risk, you must ensure that the shrimps are fresh, correctly stored, and properly prepared. 

Good news! You can find everything you need to know to prepare raw shrimp in this article, so keep reading!

image of eating raw shrimp

Can Shrimp Be Eaten Raw?

Yes, you can eat raw shrimp, but you should be aware that it comes with a few health risks. 

That’s because raw shrimps might contain parasites, viruses, and harmful organisms. You can only eliminate these via cooking. 

The good news is you can minimize such risks with proper storage and sourcing. 

Warning: The risks associated with eating raw shrimp can be minimal for most individuals. However, it can be serious and even deadly for specific people groups, so they should avoid eating raw shrimp at all costs. These groups include:  

  • Pregnant/ Lactating women
  • Children
  • Older people
  • People with immunocompromised immune systems

Why do people eat raw shrimp?

Despite the risk of foodborne illnesses, a lot of people still consume raw shrimp regularly due to the following reasons:

Good nutritional value

Raw shrimp contains good amounts of vitamins and nutrients such as:

  • Protein,
  • Fats, 
  • Phosphorous,
  • Vitamin B12, 
  • Selenium, 
  • And Magnesium.

Texture and Flavor 

Some people love raw shrimp’s soft, tender, and sometimes mushy bite. 

Aside from texture, the unique flavor profile is also one of the main reasons why people eat raw shrimp. After all, the naturally sweet flavor of shrimp shines through when it’s served raw.

What Are The Risks of Eating Raw Shrimp?

Raw shrimps may harbor harmful organisms that may cause the following illnesses:

1. Vibriosis

The bacterium Vibrio is widely found in various sea creatures. Out of the 70 Vibrio species, about 12 of them are known to cause digestive issues in humans. 

According to studies, about 55% of 299 raw shrimp samples contain certain species of Vibrio. (*)

Vibriosis is characterized by the following symptoms: 

  • Watery diarrhea, 
  • Nausea, 
  • Vomiting, 
  • Fever, 
  • And stomach cramps. 

2. Cholera

This is an intestinal infection caused by the Vibrio cholerae, a common bacteria in raw or undercooked shellfish. 

The signs and symptoms to watch out for are as follows:

  • Profuse watery diarrhea, 
  • Extreme thirst, 
  • Vomiting,
  • Leg cramps, 
  • And irritability or restlessness. (*)

3. Food Poisoning

90% of food poisoning cases are caused by common bacteria such as E.coli, Salmonella, L. monocytogenesis, and Bacillus. All of which can be found in raw shrimp. 

The symptoms of food poisoning include: 

  • Diarrhea, 
  • Fever, 
  • Stomach cramps, 
  • And vomiting. 

How To Choose Shrimp Properly?

The first step to preventing food poisoning when eating raw shrimp is to choose your shrimp wisely. Here are some tips on how to do that:

1. Buy Fresh Shrimp.

The best way to prevent contamination is to buy fresh sashimi-grade shrimp. You can find them in local fish markets and ports. But, first, you must ensure that the vendors have certifications and licenses to sell sashimi-grade shrimp.

It’s also recommended that you look for certification labels indicating that the product has been processed according to the FDA’s safety food guidelines. (*)

To ensure its freshness, check if the shrimps are refrigerated or stored over a bed of ice. 

2. If there’s no fresh shrimp, buy Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) Shrimps.

These are flash-frozen shrimps, meaning they have been frozen right after they are caught to preserve their peak freshness.

3. Avoid block-frozen shrimps as much as possible. 

Shrimps that are block-frozen can last for several months, so it will be more difficult for you to determine its level of freshness and quality. 

This goes the same with the frozen shrimp sold at local supermarkets and grocery stores.

4. Check the shrimp’s appearance. 

Fresh shrimps are translucent with a grayish-green to light pinkish tint. Additionally, the shells shouldn’t have any blackened edges or black spots.

How to Safely Prepare Raw Shrimp?

Once you’ve bought the shrimp, prepare and store them immediately. Here are some guidelines to follow:

1. Freeze the shrimp immediately. 

To kill parasites and bacteria in raw shrimp, follow the FDA’s recommended storage method. Here are some of the guidelines:

  • First, freeze at a temperature of not more than -4 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 days.
  • Freeze at temperatures not more than -31 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 hours.
  • Freeze at a temperature of fewer than -31 degrees Fahrenheit until it’s solid, then store at a temperature of -4 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours. 

2. Keep the shrimps at a temperature below 0 degrees Fahrenheit during transport.

This will prevent bacteria and other harmful organisms from multiplying. 

3. Thaw shrimp in the refrigerator. 

The safest way to thaw shrimp is to transfer it to the refrigerator at night or 24 hours before using it. 

4. Wash the shrimp thoroughly.

Place shrimp under running water and rub the different parts thoroughly to get rid of dirt and bacteria on its surface.

5. Prevent cross-contamination. 

Don’t allow the shellfish and its juices to come in contact with all the other food items in your countertop or refrigerator. 

Additionally, wash all the utensils, chopping boards, and sink you used to prepare the raw shrimp. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The Bottom Line

Can you eat raw shrimp? Yes, you can, but you need to consider the potential health risks that come with it. 

If you’re a healthy individual, you can eat raw shrimp since you can only experience minimal food poisoning symptoms. 

However, you should avoid consuming raw shrimp if you belong to the following people group:

  • Older people, 
  • Children,
  • Pregnant and lactating women,
  • And immunocompromised people.

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