The canned anchovy Basque producers are looking forward to the new 2014 season, catching and processing this delicatessen from our Cantabrian Sea. Many people are afraid of anisakiosis illness, but we must know that anisakis is easy to avoid.
From the Health Department, Spanish and Basque Government Authorities state that canned anchovies in glass jars, tins and other presentations don´t cause anisakiosis even when consumed raw or without being previously frozen. You can just open the tin or flask and eat the product directly: no risk of infection!
WHAT IS ANISAKIS?
Anisakis is a genus of parasitic nematodes, which have life cycles involving fish and cephalopods (squid, octopus, etc) and may produce allergic reactions when consumed raw or unsuficiently cooked.
The consumer should know that this problem can be avoided following simple steps.
Anisakis life cycle:
Anisakis species have complex life cycles passing through a number of hosts in the course of their lives. Eggs hatch in the sea and larvae are eaten by crustaceans. The infected crustacean is then eaten by a fish or squid. The nematode burrows into the wall of the gut and encysts in a protective coat, usually on the outside of the visceral organs, but occasionally in the muscle or beneath the skin. The life cycle is completed when an infected fish is eaten by a marine mammal, such as a whale, seal or dolphin. The nematode encysts in the intestine, feeds, grows, mates and releases eggs into seawater in the host’s feces.
Anisakis species can infect humans who eat raw or undercooked fresh fish.
These are the countries where anisakiosis cases are more common: Japan (for the consumption of raw fish which has not been frozen previously), Scandinavia (because of parasites in cod), The Netherlands (by eating herring in poor condition) and in Southamerican areas where “ceviche” is popular.
Larval anisakis are common parasites in marine and anadromous fish (e.g. salmon, sardine…) These can also be found in squid and cuttlefish. In contrast, they are absent in fish living in waters where salinity is low. Anisakids are also uncommon in lakes or fish farms.
POSSIBLE SYMTOMS BY ANISAKIS
Dr Arenas (Digestive System Specialist at the Gipuzkoa Hospital –Basque Country-Spain) tells us all about the symptoms this parasite could trigger.
After eating the infected fish, the worms try to burrow in the intestinal wall, but as they cannot penetrate it, they get stuck and die. The presence of the parasite causes an immune response: immune cells surround the worms, forming a ball-like structure that can block the digestive system. Severe abdominal pain, malnutrition and vomiting can occur. Occasionally, the larvae are regurgitated. As Dr Arenas mentions, the anisakiosis can affect the digestive system, especially the small intestine which can get obstructed. The symptoms could be similar to the ones suffered in the Crohn´s disease.
Diagnosis can be the result of a gastroscopic examination, during which the 2-cm larvae are visually observed and removed, or by a histopathologic examination of tissue removed in a biopsy or during surgery.
Fortunately, most cases may cause only a light rash, tummy ache or dizziness, Dr Arenas says.
ANISAKIS IS EASY TO AVOID. SIMPLE PREVENTION:
Raising consumers and producers awareness about the existence of anisakis worms in fish is a critical and effective prevention strategy. Anisakiasis can easily be prevented by cooking our fish adequately at temperatures which surpass higher than 60°C or by freezing it. The Health Organisms recommend that all shellfish and fish intended for raw consumption should be frozen to -20°C for 48 hours. Salting and marinating will not necessarily kill the parasites.
People who work with or often go and buy fish, can see fish (mainly hake) infected by anisakis the whole year round. Fortunately, it is a fish which is always cooked at high temperature; the same applies to octopus and squid which are boiled for quite a long time. Therefore there is no problem when our families prepare these delicacies in their homes. However, when we prepare fish “a la plancha” (grilled) we have to make sure that temperatures reach 60ºC right in the centre of the piece or fillet.
CONSERVAS DENTICI-OLASAGASTI POLICY:
When fresh fish reaches the OLASAGASTI factory, it is checked, eviscerated and cleaned. When the fish is certified to be suitable for consumption, it is cut into pieces or fillets and boiled -in the case of white tuna, tuna and mackerel- and put in brine -in the case of anchovy-.
Olasagasti canned White Tuna, Fuenterrabía Bluefin Tuna and Cantabrian Anchovy are absolutely secure: As soon as we spot any infected fish, it is immediately removed and any possible risk is eradicated.
As the Scientific Committee for the Security of Food (Agencia Española de Seguridad Alimentaria (AESA) confirm, when anchovies with this parasite are in salt during their maturation process, anisakis don´t survive after the fifth week. And we leave them in brine for 5-10 months before processing them. Never can there be any risk since anisakis dies and disappears at the beginning of the process.
RECOMMENDATIONS to avoid anisakis infection:
1- Don´t eat raw or poorly cooked fish in the microwave oven: The microwaves reach a certain depth and then the heat is conveyed by conduction. The parasite may not be erradicated. Therefore this cooking method is not secure.
2- Don’t undercook when you grill: the heat has to reach 60ºC right through to the inside of the fillet for at least 10 seconds.
3- Avoid pickled, marinated, carpaccio or sushi fish if it has not been frozen previously at -20ºC for at least 48 hours.
4- When there is an anisakis alert, the consumption of tiny fish is not recommended. If we eat some, we should fry it correctly.
5- In case of adverse biological reaction to anisakis when eating out, inform the establishment owner to make sure all the steps are being carried out to avoid any problem.
The boquerones or anchovies in vinegar (not cooked) are really popular in Spain where they are served in many bars. These species have been frozen previously. Therefore, there is no risk when consumed either raw or marinated.
It is actually disgusting but I have to say that I usually eat fresh, canned and raw fish and never had any infection because anisakis is easty to avoid.
Marta & Sandra