Is Sushi Safe? A Guide to Letting Kids Try Raw Fish

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Sushi is well-loved around the world. Whether enjoyed as a light lunch or for a fancy date night, the combination of raw fish and perfectly seasoned rice is hard to beat. Even kids get drawn to these colorful, dainty treats! But is it safe enough for them to eat? Read on to learn how and when to introduce your children to the delicious world of this Japanese gem.

Is Sushi Safe to Eat?

Child holding piece of sashimi with chopsticks

Yes, it's safe for children to eat sushi or raw seafood. However, they should be at least five years old when they take their first bite. Their immune systems are not fully developed until then, meaning they are still at high risk of food poisoning. If possible, wait until they are older than five before having them taste any sashimi, maki, or nigiri.

Tips for Introducing Raw Fish to Kids

Salmon sushi served on round wooden platter

Once your child is old enough to consume raw seafood, keep a few things in mind before taking them to your next sushi lunch.

  1. Choose the right fish. Some options, such as tuna, sea bass, and mackerel, contain high levels of mercury. Younger children are more susceptible to the compound and its harmful effects, so it’s best to limit the quantity they consume (no more than 12 ounces a week). Instead, opt for salmon, which contains little to no traces of mercury.
  2. Pick a trustworthy source. Choose a source well-trained to handle fresh fish. If they are a reputable fishmonger or restaurant, they should follow strict health and safety guidelines and meet all quality standards. 
  3. Be wary of allergens. Sushi uses seafood, eggs, or soy, which are common allergens. Consider your child’s allergies, then double-check ingredient lists or inform the waiter before ordering.
  4. Consider salt content. Sushi can have high-salt content. Including too many high-sodium meals in a child’s diet can lead to blood pressure problems in adulthood. Consider eating sushi as a treat instead of something kids can enjoy daily.
  5. Avoid raw shellfish. Clams, mussels, and oysters are the most dangerous to eat for kids and adults. These shellfish are easily contaminated and can carry high-risk food-borne illnesses. 
  6. Get them vaccinated. Eating raw seafood can put your child at risk of infections like hepatitis A. Make sure they have received all their necessary vaccines before they try sushi for the first time.

Sushi Alternatives For Younger Kids

California maki on a white platter with a sad Asian boy in the background

If your child is not yet old enough to consume sushi, there are things you can do to teach them how to eat raw fish.

Offer simpler versions. 

Introduce sushi to picky eaters through simplified recipes. Choose sushi rolls or maki with a single ingredient rolled into the rice. For example, add sliced avocado or cucumber strips. Because your kids are already familiar with the components, they will be more open to trying their new treat.

Get creative with fillings. 

Once your child feels more adventurous with their veggie rolls, you can try getting more creative with the fillings. Add Lady’s Choice Tuna Spread to your sushi to slowly introduce your kid to some seafood elements. You can also use sliced bread instead of rice to make a Japanese-inspired merienda.

Choose cooked ingredients. 

Avoid high-risk ingredients by making sushi with cooked components. A good option is imitation crabsticks, apparently made with cooked fish. Prepare a simple kani sushi to entice kids to explore more dishes (that mommy will also enjoy). Maybe California maki or a tempura roll next?

Get your kids involved. 

Another great way to get your kids excited is to involve them in the process. Let them help you make sushi for the family! Allowing your children to prepare rolls with their hands gets them curious about eating the treats afterwards.

As long as you remember these tips for eating raw fish, enjoying sushi can be safe and enjoyable for everyone. Next time you go to a sushi restaurant, take your kids with you. If they’re old enough, let them help you explore the menu. And if they’re not yet at the right age, you already know what to do to keep them satisfied.

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