The number of restaurants serving sushi within Minnesota is continuously increasing. The practices and protocols of serving raw fish are complex and require detailed planning to ensure that food served to patrons will not cause illness. Although the popularity of sushi is increasing, there is a lack of research on food safety issues pertaining to preparation of raw fish and sushi rice. To address this gap, the Minnesota Department of Health Environmental Health Specialists Network Food program collected descriptive data on restaurant practices and policies concerning the service of raw fish and sushi rice in 40 Minnesota restaurants. At each restaurant, a specialist interviewed a restaurant manager, conducted an observation of the sushi prep areas in the restaurant kitchen, and reviewed parasite destruction letters and invoices from fish supplier(s). Over half of the restaurants (59%) were missing one or more of the parasite destruction letters from their fish supplier(s) guaranteeing that fish had been properly frozen to the time and temperature requirements in the Minnesota Food Code. A total of 42 parasite destruction letters from suppliers were observed; 10% were considered “adequate” letters. The majority of the letters were missing details pertaining to the types of fish frozen, the length of time fish were frozen, or details on what temperatures fish were held frozen or a combination of all three. Most restaurants were using time as a public health control for their sushi rice. For those restaurants using time as a public health control, 26% had a written procedure on-site, and approximately 53% were keeping track of time. Bare hand contact during sushi prep was observed in 17% of restaurants, and in more than 40% of the restaurants, at least one fish was mislabeled on the menu. Findings from this study indicate that many Minnesota restaurants are not complying with the Food Code requirements pertaining to parasite destruction for the service of raw fish or the use of time as a public health control for sushi rice.

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