Can you eat salmon from the supermarket raw?

Quick Answer

It is generally not recommended to eat raw salmon straight from the supermarket due to potential food safety risks. However, if the salmon is very high quality and has been properly handled, flash frozen, thawed, and prepared, eating raw salmon from trusted retailers may be low risk for healthy individuals. Those with compromised immune systems should avoid raw fish.

Salmon Safety Concerns

Eating raw salmon comes with some health risks. Here are the main safety concerns with supermarket salmon:

  • Parasites – Raw salmon may contain parasitic worms that can infect humans who eat it. Freezing or cooking the fish kills any parasites.
  • Bacteria – Salmonella, Vibrio, Listeria, and other bacteria may contaminate raw seafood and cause foodborne illness.
  • Toxins – Fish can contain natural toxins like histamine, particularly if not properly refrigerated. High histamine can cause an allergic-like reaction.
  • Cross-contamination – Bacteria and viruses can spread from contaminated surfaces, equipment, and hands onto the raw fish.

Improper salmon handling, processing, or storage may increase the risk of contamination. However, reputable retailers follow strict seafood safety standards to minimize risks.

Tips for Safely Eating Raw Supermarket Salmon

If you want to eat raw salmon from the grocery store, follow these tips to reduce your risk:

  • Purchase sushi or sashimi grade salmon, which is safest for raw consumption.
  • Ensure the seafood counter and salmon package looks clean, with no strong odors or liquid leakage.
  • Check the sell-by date and don’t purchase salmon if it is expired.
  • Make sure the salmon was previously frozen, which kills any parasites present.
  • Refrigerate salmon immediately and keep it cold, below 40°F.
  • Rinse salmon under cold water before eating raw.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw salmon separate from other foods.
  • If in doubt, cook salmon to an internal temperature of at least 145°F to kill bacteria.

Taking these precautions when selecting, handling, and preparing the salmon can greatly reduce your risk of illness.

Populations that Should Avoid Raw Salmon

While healthy individuals are unlikely to get sick from eating raw salmon occasionally, some populations are better off avoiding raw seafood entirely due to higher risk of infection. These include:

  • Pregnant women – Risk of listeria infection that can cause pregnancy complications.
  • Young children – More susceptible to foodborne illnesses.
  • Older adults – Weaker immune systems.
  • Those with medical conditions – Such as liver disease, diabetes, cancer, or autoimmune disorders.
  • Those taking medications – Such as antacids that lower stomach acid needed to kill germs.

For these high-risk groups, it is safer to cook salmon thoroughly to avoid any foodborne illnesses.

Parasites in Raw Salmon

One major risk of eating raw salmon is parasites. Certain types of worms and other parasites can infect salmon and be transferred to humans who eat the raw fish. Two main parasites to watch out for are:


Anisakis worms can infect various fish species, including salmon. After humans ingest the live larvae, they can burrow into the stomach and intestine, causing symptoms like nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Anisakis infection is killed by cooking, freezing, or brining raw fish.


Also known as fish tapeworm, Diphyllobothrium latum is a parasitic worm that can grow very long inside the human intestine after eating infected raw salmon or other fish. Symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort may arise. Freezing or cooking fish prevents transmission.

Proper freezing techniques can kill any parasites present in salmon flesh. According to FDA guidelines, fish should be frozen at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days to kill parasites.

Bacterial Contamination

Eating raw or undercooked salmon comes with a risk of foodborne illness from different bacteria that may be present:


Salmonella contamination can occur during fishing, processing, shipping, or handling salmon. Eating salmonella-contaminated raw salmon can cause diarrhea, fever, cramps, and vomiting within 12-72 hours of ingestion.


Vibrio bacteria naturally live in coastal marine environments. Raw seafood may become contaminated if harvested from such waters. Vibrio vulnificus in particular can be very dangerous, with over 50% mortality rate.


Listeria monocytogenes bacteria are commonly found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat seafood. Refrigeration slows but does not kill listeria, which can cause serious illness in pregnant women and high-risk groups.

E. coli

Raw salmon can become contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), leading to severe food poisoning. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps 2-8 days after ingestion.

Proper cooking, freezing, and refrigeration prevents growth and kills bacteria present in raw salmon. Processing techniques like flash freezing, blast freezing, and irradiation also help control bacterial risks.

Natural Toxins in Fish

Some natural toxins can accumulate in the flesh of fish like salmon, particularly if fish is not handled and stored properly after catching. Here are two toxins to be aware of:


Bacteria on fish produce histamine as fish begins to spoil. High levels of histamine in spoiled, unrefrigerated fish can cause ‘scombroid poisoning’ when eaten. Symptoms resemble an allergic reaction like hives, flushing, headache, diarrhea, and sweating.


This heat-stable toxin is produced by dinoflagellates that accumulate up the food chain into carnivorous reef fish. Eating toxic fish like grouper can cause ciguatera fish poisoning, with nausea, vomiting, and neurological symptoms. Salmon are less prone to this toxin.

Buying fresh, properly handled salmon from reputable retailers and keeping it refrigerated helps prevent buildup of high toxin levels. Freezing does not destroy these natural toxins already present in raw fish.

Proper Handling to Reduce Contamination

To keep raw salmon as safe as possible for consumption, proper handling practices are important:

  • Keep raw and cooked seafood separate during processing and preparation.
  • Use separate cutting boards, utensils, platters, and gloves for handling raw salmon.
  • Keep preparation surfaces clean with soap and hot water after working with raw seafood.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw fish.
  • Keep raw salmon chilled at 40°F or colder until ready to cook or serve.
  • Discard salmon that has passed its expiry date or looks/smells off.

Following safe food handling procedures reduces the risk of bacteria, viruses, and toxins contaminating the raw salmon. This helps prevent foodborne illnesses from eating raw fish.

Is Eating Raw Salmon Worth the Risk?

For most people, eating raw salmon from a trusted retailer or restaurant on occasion is a relatively low risk. The potential benefits of raw salmon nutrition also arguably outweigh the small chance of getting sick for a healthy individual.

However, those in high-risk groups would be better off playing it safe and avoiding raw seafood. The health complications linked to foodborne illness can be much more dangerous for susceptible populations.

In the end, eat raw salmon in moderation while taking care to select quality fish and practice safe handling. Make sure to follow any guidelines for your area regarding consumption of raw seafood. If in doubt, cook salmon thoroughly to eliminate any risks.

Nutrition Profile of Raw Salmon

Raw salmon is prized for its nutritional content. Here is how 3 ounces (85 grams) of raw wild Atlantic salmon stacks up nutritionally:

Calories 116
Protein 19 g
Fat 6 g
Omega-3 fatty acids 1.7 g
Vitamin B12 5.1 mcg
Selenium 40.5 mcg
Niacin 10.5 mg
Phosphorus 205 mg
Magnesium 27 mg
Vitamin B6 0.5 mg

Salmon provides high-quality protein, essential omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, selenium, and other important nutrients. Eating raw salmon benefits cardiovascular health, brain function, vision, skin and joints.

However, cooking salmon reduces the risk of parasites and foodborne illness that comes with raw fish. Baked, grilled, or pan-seared salmon still retains much of its nutritional goodness.

Buying Quality Salmon for Raw Consumption

When shopping for raw salmon, look for:

  • Wild-caught – More nutritious than farmed salmon.
  • Alaska/Pacific salmon – King (Chinook), Sockeye, Coho, and Pink salmon have more omega-3s.
  • Atlantic salmon – Also a good choice.
  • Frozen previously – Kills any parasites present.
  • Sushi/Sashimi grade – Safely edible raw.
  • Firm, shiny flesh – Avoid dull, mushy salmon.
  • Refrigerated – Should be kept at 40°F or below.
  • No strong “fishy” odor – Should just smell mildly briny or ocean-like.

Getting fresh, high-quality salmon from the seafood counter or freezer section is important to reduce safety issues with raw consumption.

Preparing Raw Salmon Safely at Home

Follow these tips for safe raw salmon preparation and serving at home:

  • Thaw frozen salmon overnight in the fridge.
  • Rinse salmon briefly under cold water and pat dry.
  • Use a sharp knife and cutting board designated just for raw seafood prep.
  • Slice salmon into thin sashimi slices or cubes.
  • Enjoy salmon tartare immediately or within a couple hours of preparation.
  • Serve raw salmon sushi rolls, sashimi, or crudo the same day they are prepared.
  • Refrigerate any leftover raw salmon immediately.

Proper storage, handling, and hygiene when prepping raw salmon help reduce bacterial contamination risks.

Raw Salmon Dish Ideas

There are endless ways to enjoy fresh raw salmon. Try these delicious dish ideas:

  • Sashimi – Thinly sliced raw salmon, often served with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.
  • Carpaccio – Raw salmon slices topped with olive oil, lemon, capers, pepper, and greens.
  • Salmon tartare – Finely diced salmon blended with capers, onions, lemon, and Dijon mustard.
  • Salmon crudo – Cubed raw salmon drizzled in olive oil and citrus, sometimes with avocado.
  • Poke bowl – Cubed raw salmon over rice with vegetables and umami flavored sauces.
  • Salmon sushi – Raw salmon nigiri or rolls, with rice, nori, veggies, roe, etc.
  • Salmon ceviche – “Cooked” in citrus juice, along with onions, tomatoes, herbs.
  • Gravlax – Dilled salmon cured in sugar and salt for a few days, then thinly sliced.

Prepare these raw salmon specialties to enjoy both the delicious flavor and health benefits of this incredible fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about eating raw salmon from the supermarket:

Is it safe to eat raw salmon from Costco or Walmart?

In general, raw salmon sold at big box stores like Costco and Walmart is safe if handled properly. Make sure to choose sushi-grade salmon that looks fresh and has been kept refrigerated. Use the salmon within a couple days of purchasing for best quality and safety.

Can you eat Trader Joe’s salmon raw?

Yes, Trader Joe’s sells sushi-grade salmon that is suitable for consuming raw. Make sure to keep it chilled and use within the expiry period for maximum freshness and safety. Their frozen salmon can also be thawed and eaten raw.

What are the symptoms of salmonella poisoning?

Salmonella food poisoning usually causes diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and other flu-like symptoms within 12-72 hours after eating contaminated food. Symptoms typically last around 4-7 days. Seek medical treatment if severe.

Does cooking salmon kill parasites?

Yes, thoroughly cooking salmon to an internal temperature of at least 145°F kills any parasites, worms, or bacteria present in the raw fish. Salmon should have an opaque and flaky appearance when cooked through. Freezing for 7+ days at -4°F or below also kills parasites.

Can you eat salmon skin raw?

Salmon skin has a chewy texture and concentrated omega-3 fats. The skin can be eaten raw as part of sashimi or salmon tataki, provided the salmon is very fresh. Use caution with raw skin, as bacteria and parasites could be present. Lightly searing the skin can make it more palatable.


While raw salmon from high-end sushi restaurants is likely safe, exercise caution when consuming raw salmon straight from the supermarket. Make sure to select sushi or sashimi grade salmon that looks and smells fresh, with proper refrigerated storage. Follow safe handling and preparation techniques at home, and consume raw salmon in moderation. Those in higher risk groups may want to avoid raw seafood altogether to eliminate the risk of foodborne illnesses. In the end, the safest option is to cook salmon thoroughly to reap its nutritional benefits without any raw fish pathogens present.

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