Other ways parasites could lurk in your food besides sushi

It's not limited to sashimi only!

05 May 2024 10:30am
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It's common knowledge to be wary of raw food like as consuming them could expose someone to the risk of food contamination. There’s some truth to it following the fact that many parasites - E.coli, Giardia, and Tapeworm could be found in raw or undercooked pork, beef, lamb as well as contaminated fish. The easiest example would be sashimi in sushi.

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You would think this is old news. You’re partly right because most people are aware of how raw foods could cause diseases in humans, but that is not all. Here are some ways parasites could be found lurking in your favourite vegetables, cereals, and fruit juices.

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If you do not wash the fresh produce you purchased at the supermarket or the farm, you could be in trouble. Vinmec International Hospital based in Vietnam reported that Cryptosporidium parasites are found in fresh produce, milk, and fruit juice.

This parasite is a single-celled parasite with a hard shell and can cause abdominal pain, fever, cramps, and watery diarrhea. It takes an average of seven days for these symptoms to appear after ingestion. You can also be infected if you come into contact with feces containing the parasite.

Most people in Asia also love eating their vegetables raw, where these assortments called ‘ulam’ are eaten raw or accompanied by rice. It is common for them to simply pick these vegetables from their garden and bring them right in before meals.

This is a healthy habit but could cause diseases if you do not wash them thoroughly before eating them.

The easy way to prevent this parasite is to make a habit of thoroughly washing all your food after your purchase, drinking pasteurised milk and juice, as well as washing your hands often before and after handling your food produce.

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Proper hygiene when cooking is also crucial to make sure that no parasites lurking inside your food will be consumed. There is a reason why we have been taught to wash our hands before handling food or cooking.

It makes it all the more easier for parasites to be transmitted to your food. Some people are also unaware of cross-contamination when cooking, whereas they use the same knife for cutting raw meat to cut the vegetables next.

It is best if you use different knives to prepare different ingredients, or if that is not possible, simply wash the knife and washing board before using them to cut other ingredients.

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American website and health information provider Healthline Media listed Ascaris, a genus of intestinal roundworm, as one of the top eight parasites that could be hiding in your daily food.

The eggs of this parasite can end up in your food if you touch contaminated soil and do not wash your hands before consuming the food. Eating fresh produce that was grown in such soil without washing it first can also lead to parasites in your food. Symptoms of ascariasis, despite commonly being mild or nonexistent, may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, coughing, and shortness of breath.

You should avoid any produce you suspect may have been grown in contaminated soil.


A friendly reminder for cat owners, take caution to ensure that you wash your hands after handling your cat litter. This is significant to prevent Toxoplasma gondii from coming into contact with your food. Known to be the cause of toxoplasmosis disease, the microscopic parasite can only reproduce inside of cats.

Last year, it was revealed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that toxoplasmosis is the third leading cause of death by foodborne illness in the world.


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) researched how there is possible exposure to parasites in foods of non-animal origin.

With the support of the working group on foods of non-animal origin, they have assessed the public health risks posed by pathogens (disease-causing bacteria, parasites) that may contaminate the foods - fruits, vegetables, and spices.

Amongst raw and and minimally processed foods of non-animal origin, those that pose the highest risks are leafy greens, bulb and stem vegetables, tomatoes, melons, fresh pods, legumes or grains, sprouted seeds, and berries with Salmonella and E.coli as the parasites found in the foods.

However, results from the EFSA assessment have shown that the outbreaks associated with foods of non-animal origin are usually less severe in terms of hospitalisations and deaths.

They were associated with 10 per cent of outbreaks, twenty-six per cent of human cases, thirty-five per cent of hospitalisations and forty-six per cent of deaths.

Fear not, since you as a consumer could also play your role in reducing the risks of parasite exposure for foods of non-animal origin. It is highly recommended that you keep your hands and kitchen areas clean, separating raw and cooked food, as well as keeping food at safe temperatures.