Recently, a TikToker went viral after showing what they claimed were parasites in recently purchased salmon, which user Maci (@macihall1) claims was bought at Whole Foods.
In her video, which has over 6.5 million views, one can see small parasites moving around a tray of uncooked salmon.
“So glad these little guys got to enjoy my dinner,” Maci wrote in the caption. “Thanks, whole foods!”
However, while the presence of the parasites is shocking, users were quick to point out that salmon are frequently loaded with parasites.
“They die when you cook them. About almost all fish [have] them,” one user wrote in the comments. “That is why it’s suggested to cook all the way through and not eat it raw.”
“I live in Alaska and only eat salmon l catch from copper & Kenai river,” a second claimed. “They almost always have worms. Just cook it well or freeze it first.”
“As someone who lives in Alaska and eats fresh caught salmon, I promise this is a normal occurrence and completely fine,” a third echoed. “Just freeze/cook thoroughly.”
According to experts, these commenters are correct.
“Data cited by the [British Columbia] Centre for Disease Control suggests 75 percent of wild Pacific salmon are infected with the parasite,” an article from Canadian news outlet CBC claimed.
In the article, author Wallis Snowdon interviews Michael Gänzle, Canada Research Chair in food microbiology and probiotics at the University of Alberta.
According to Gänzle, “if the fish is properly prepared for consumption, the parasites pose no health risk.” This is because “live worms can only be transferred to humans if the meat is raw, lightly cured, or undercooked.”
“As soon as the salmon is cooked, it’s still disgusting but never dangerous, but if the fish is eaten raw, there can be an infection,” Gänzle told CBC. “We will sometimes develop gastroenteritis which is always unpleasant but is not life-threatening.”
The best way to remove parasites from salmon is either cooking it or freezing it at the correct temperature for the correct length of time.
“In general, killing parasites requires freezing and storing fish at a surrounding temperature of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for seven days; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of minus 31 degrees or colder until the fish is solid and storing at the same temperature for 15 hours; or freezing at a surrounding temperature of minus 31 degrees until the fish is solid and storing at minus 4 degrees or below for 24 hours,” the New York Times writes, citing data from the Food and Drug Administration.
A summary of available evidence by the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion echoes this claim. “Freezing provides an effective means of inactivating parasites in raw and undercooked fish,” the agency wrote in an evidence brief.
This information was echoed in a stitched TikTok video from creator @alriiiiiitythen.
In her clip, she reiterates that the parasites visible in Maci’s salmon aren’t unique to Whole Foods’ fish. “Very common no matter where you get your fish from,” she wrote in the caption.
Still, the presence of parasites in fish seems to have put some TikTok users off eating it for good.
As one user wrote in the comments of Maci’s video, “I’m gonna be vegetarian starting today.
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