I have known more than one new mother who, five seconds after junior exited her womb, demanded that her husband rush out to the sushi bar and fill her hospital tray with raw fish and vinegared rice.
That’s because for years sushi has been on the “DO NOT TOUCH” list for pregnant women. Fear of parasites and other food-borne illnesses is the culprit for the ban.
But as Steven A. Shaw (registration required) argues in a New York Times op-ed column, these fears are nearly baseless because FDA guidelines require that fish that will be served raw be flash-frozen to rid them of parasites. “This freezing kills any parasites as sure as cooking would,” Shaw writes.
And like the French women who have been drinking wine and eating cheese for centuries while enceinte, pregnant Japanese women think nothing of eating sushi. In fact, with its beneficial fatty acids, fish, whether raw or cooked, is a great food for developing fetuses.
Shaw goes even further, intimating it’s not fear of fish that has caused women to be cautioned not to eat sushi, but fear of the other:
[T]he sushi ban is insulting to Japanese culture. It speaks of ignorance and prejudice to reject one of that culture’s basic foods based on unfounded health claims.
The pregnant woman’s body has become a locus for all kinds of fears—it’s nice to know that at least one of them is not as scary as we thought.