It seems more and more children are appearing in sushi establishments. But is sushi safe for children? And when can you feel good about offering your little bundle of joy a raw wedge of tuna? Great question because the Internet is teeming with vague, unsubstantiated information on sushi safety. And perhaps for good reason: there’s no committee-established consensus on the issue.
When making decisions about fish and your child, just look at it like any other food but with a couple of very important caveats. Consider three fish factors: Allergy, safety of preparation, and environmental contamination. Lets take one at a time
Allergy – Concerns over fish allergy should vary depending upon your family’s allergy history. If there is no history of food allergy, it’s fair game to offer your child fish once on table food. Offer cooked fish before venturing into sushi. If there is a family history of fish allergy, introduction should be withheld until after three years of age and with the approval of your pediatrician or allergist.
Cool side note: a study that published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that babies who start fish before they’re 9 months old have a lower risk of getting eczema and allergy-related skin disease
Safety of preparation – Uncooked food is different from cooked food in that infectious contamination always has to be considered. When uncooked food sits, bacteria can grow and pose risks intestinal infection and food poisoning. Assuming that sushi is fresh, properly handled and prepared correctly, contamination risk should be minimal. Look for high volume, reputable establishments. When it comes to fish, high turnover is a good thing. Oh, and when serving fish to a young child inspect carefully for bones.
Contamination – Arguably the most concerning risk to young children when it comes to fish is mercury exposure. Like most toxins, remember that it’s difficult to avoid mercury entirely – all we can do is make every effort to minimize exposure. The FDA recommends that you avoid giving young children shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish because of high mercury levels. Good ‘low mercury’ fish to offer your child (once on table food) include shrimp, canned light tuna (albacore is higher in mercury), salmon, tilapia, farmed trout and catfish.
So be it for fashion or taste, sushi represents healthy alternative for the evolving palate. Just watch your P's & Q's and keep in mind the three fish factors.