Does canned salmon have worms?

Canned salmon is a popular, healthy food that is consumed by millions of people around the world. However, some people wonder if canned salmon contains worms or other parasites. This concern stems from the fact that fresh, raw salmon often contains small parasitic worms. During the commercial canning process, however, these worms are typically killed and rendered harmless. Here’s a closer look at the issue of worms in canned salmon.

Do worms live in salmon?

Yes, it is common for fresh, raw salmon to harbor small parasitic worms. The most common worms found in salmon are anisakid nematodes, such as Anisakis simplex. These microscopic worm larvae burrow into the flesh of fish hosts like salmon.

When people eat raw or undercooked infected salmon, they can become infected with the worms. This condition is known as anisakiasis or anisakidosis. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. In rare cases, the worms can even penetrate the stomach or intestinal wall, requiring surgery.

Here are some quick answers about worms in fresh salmon:

  • Up to 100% of wild salmon are infected with anisakid worms, depending on factors like location and species.
  • Farmed salmon have much lower rates of worms, around 5-10% on average.
  • Infected salmon may have no visual cues or outward signs of worms.
  • The worms pose no risk when salmon is cooked thoroughly or frozen to the appropriate temperature.

So in summary, the majority of wild-caught salmon do harbor small worms, while farmed salmon have fewer. But the worms only pose a risk when the fish is raw or undercooked.

Are worms killed during canning?

During the commercial canning process, any worms or parasites present in salmon are killed and rendered harmless to humans. Here’s an overview of how canned salmon is processed and prepared:

  • Salmon is caught and transported to the canning facility.
  • The fish is beheaded, gutted, and cleaned to remove innards where worms may reside.
  • Meat is cut into portions, skinned, and carefully inspected for any signs of parasites.
  • Salmon portions are then cooked at high heat (up to 250°F for 30 to 90 minutes). This kills any worms or larvae present.
  • After cooking, fish is put in cans and sealed.
  • Cans are heated again to temps between 210-250°F for up to 90 minutes. This sterilization step kills any remaining microorganisms.
  • Finally, cans are cooled down and labeled.

As you can see, the thorough cooking, cleaning, and canning process eliminates any worms originally present in the raw salmon. Multiple rounds of high heat kill and destroy any worm larvae or eggs.

Canning standards in the US

In the United States, the canning of seafood is highly regulated by the FDA. There are strict protocols and requirements around processing methods, sanitation, temperatures and times, container standards, and final product testing.

These regulations and quality control steps ensure that all canned salmon is free of live parasites, bacteria, or other contaminants like worms. The FDA approval process provides assurance that properly canned salmon will be worm-free and safe to consume.

Have there been any reports of worms in canned salmon?

While fresh or undercooked salmon regularly contains worms, there are no credible reports of worms being found in commercially canned salmon products.

Given the intense heat processing and FDA regulations around canning, it would be extremely rare for a worm to survive and end up in a can of salmon on the grocery shelf. There have been no documented cases of this happening with major brands or retailers.

Some people point to worm-like white striations in canned salmon as evidence of worms. However, these whitish lines are simply bits of protein coagulated from the high heat process – not evidence of parasites.

In the rare instance that a worm was found in canned fish, it could indicate a manufacturing or canning error that allowed the product to bypass proper cooking temperatures and processing. That batch would be promptly removed.

Out of the billions of cans produced over decades, there are no credible occurrences of worms in canned salmon on retailer shelves or after purchase. Any sightings are either refuted, lack evidence, or indicate an extremely rare isolated issue.

Can you eat canned salmon right out of the can?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to eat canned salmon directly from the can without any cooking. The salmon has already been thoroughly cooked to temperatures high enough to kill any potential worms or parasites.

You can comfortably eat canned salmon immediately after opening the can without any safety concerns about worms. Consumers do so around the world every day.

Some people still prefer to give the opened salmon a quick extra cook or rinse. This is for taste or texture preference, not because of safety worries. The salmon in the can is already fully cooked and safe to eat directly.

Tips for spotting worms in canned fish

Again, worms in properly canned salmon are exceedingly rare to non-existent. However, here are some tips for inspecting the fish visually if concerned:

  • Look for any coiled, round shapes. Worms appear more curled versus the flakier texture of fish.
  • Worms can range from 0.5 to 2 inches long typically.
  • Live worms in fish would be a rarity but might move slightly.
  • Examine the salmon carefully and spread it apart to inspect thoroughly for any visual anomalies.
  • Focus around bones or darker meat portions where worms might collect.
  • White striations or fibre strands are not worms but rather harmless protein.

If by an extremely rare chance a worm is spotted, seek a refund or replacement from the retailer.

Can you eat worms from canned salmon?

It is not recommended to knowingly ingest any worms from heavily infested salmon, whether fresh or canned. Consuming live anisakid worms can lead to symptoms of anisakiasis.

That said, it is extremely unlikely to find live worms in a canned product. The presence of dead or mostly degraded worms does not pose a health risk, given the lack of viability or likelihood of infection.

So if by chance a degraded remnant of worm is present, the safest approach is to simply remove it from the salmon and continue eating. There should be no medical effect from ingesting fragments of dead worm matter in canned fish.

Can pregnant women eat canned salmon?

Yes, pregnant women can safely eat canned salmon without worrying about worms. Consuming canned salmon provides health benefits for both mother and baby, including:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA for brain/neurological development.
  • High-quality protein for tissue growth and repair.
  • Vitamin D for bone health.
  • B12, selenium, zinc, iron and other micronutrients.

The FDA and other health agencies confirm that pregnant women can confidently eat canned seafood, including salmon. The cooking process destroys any worms or other parasites.

Pregnant women simply need to avoid raw, sushi, or undercooked salmon. Canned preparation is safe and recommended during pregnancy and nursing.

Worms in salmon: Additional facts and data

Here is some additional information about the presence of worms in salmon, according to research studies and experts:

  • On fish farms, 5-50% of Atlantic salmon may carry anisakid worms depending on region and fish age.
  • In BC, Canada, a study found 94% of wild chinook salmon were infected with anisakids.
  • WHO estimates up to 3,000 cases of anisakiasis from eating underprocessed fish occur annually.
  • In Japan, 90% of wild salmon have anisakid worms according to some surveys.
  • Freezing or heating fish to >60°C kills worms. However, vinegar, salt, smoke don’t reliably kill.
  • The FDA has strict regulations that require killing parasites in salmon during canning.
  • Symptoms of anisakiasis normally appear within 12 hours of ingesting infected raw fish.


In summary, it is well-established that fresh salmon often harbor small worm parasites like Anisakis simplex. However, the commercial canning process involves cooking the salmon at high heat which reliably kills any worms present. There’s no credible evidence of live worms making it past the canning process and into canned products.

Properly canned salmon is perfectly safe for consumption straight from the can with no additional cooking needed. Consumers can be confident that reputable canned salmon brands and retailers adhere to FDA standards and do not pose a worm risk. While reasonable precautions can be taken, the presence of worms in canned salmon is extremely improbable.

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