Food & Drink

New Ontario health regulation affects sushi restaurants - UPDATE!

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  • Dec 4th, 2004 1:32 pm
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Deal Guru
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Jun 28, 2004
10349 posts
8 upvotes
(and it's very easy to call the McGuinty government the devil, by the way)
but I support this law.. although perhaps not to be strictly applied.

The thing is, when I go into a restaurant, I expect all relevant safety procedures to have been followed to ensure my food is safe to eat. If it's between getting a worm parasite or eating frozen fish, I'd gladly have my fish frozen.

Perhaps a compromise could be reached:
1) Sushi restaurants offer both the frozen and non-frozen varieties. There must be no price difference, and all varieties offered non-frozen must have a frozen equivalent. The menu/waiters must inform patrons of the potential dangers of eating the fresh fish (sort of like cigarette warnings..)

2) Or, allow restaurants to only serve "fresh" fish.. but require they must provide directions to a sushi restaurant within a reasonable distance that serves frozen fish.. as well as the warnings as above.

The point is, consumers should know the heath risks associated with the food they eat. They should have an easily accessible alternative (ie. so they don't feel forced to simply accept what they deem an unreasonable risk just because there are no other options)
Sr. Member
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Sep 9, 2003
759 posts
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Calgary
Do they have examples of this happening in Ontario to back up their reasoning for the decision? Not examples from some flea-bite backwoods 3rd world town in Wallawallaland, but ones that actually occured in Sushi restaurants in the province they are regulating?

Sounds like a regulatory board filled with incompentents who want their hamburgers. And I am quite positive I can find you numerous examples of that "quality" product being continuously compromised all across North America, but no call to rip Big Mac's outta peoples mouths.

Nuking your steak for 5 minutes will 100% guarantee there is absolutely no chance of anything bad living in the steak, no matter what slips past the processing plant. That would guaranteeing your health and ensure we never hear about ecoli or anything else. Perhaps that should be the next rule, I'm sure no one will complain.

*scratches Ontario off his places to live*
*recalls it wasn't on the list to start with :razz: *
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Deal Addict
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Mar 5, 2003
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Peterborough, ON
Well it's unfortunate, but I think it's necessary. I got parasites from eating sushi. Although I didn't experience any obvious physical symptoms, I think the effects are long term if left untreated.. anyway, my doctor still gave me crap to take and told me to stay away from sushi. As much as I love it, and I really really do, I'm not going to eat it anymore.. there's just no way of knowing if the fish I'm eating is free from parasites.

It'd be cool if there was some sort of device that could test fish on the spot in the restaurant... then we wouldn't have to worry or have these laws...
[OP]
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Oct 20, 2001
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Sauga
From http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Conten ... 8793972154 :
Sushi rules leave chefs feeling raw

Regulation takes eateries by surprise
Health inspectors give 3-month break


TANYA TALAGA AND GREG QUILL
STAFF REPORTERS

Toronto sushi chefs and restaurant owners face tough new health rules banning the use of fresh raw fish.

But city health inspectors are giving them a three-month reprieve before they start enforcing the regulations requiring the fish to be frozen first.

Provincial health authorities said the regulations were not prompted by any immediate health threat, but, after a lengthy review process, were brought about in the interest of public health.

The change took place at the beginning of September to bring Ontario up to national and U.S. health codes, said Dr. Karim Kurji, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health.

But the changes have created a flap in a city that loves its sushi.

Gus Nikoletsos, owner of the City Fish Market at Dufferin St. and Lawrence Ave., said, "Nobody's happy about this, not the restaurants, not the customers, not the suppliers."

And some infectious disease experts questioned the rationale behind the move.

Dr. Jay Keystone, of the University Health Network's tropical disease unit, said he doesn't understand the reason for the changes, adding severe sickness from a parasite coming from raw sushi is rather rare.

"Although, I do believe in preventive medicine and public health, I'm not sure why this would be a priority," he said.

The public health department has done a great job in our province, he said. "But this particular issue seems to be a non-issue for a parasite ... that we almost never see."

Freezing raw fish is an effective way to remove parasites.

According to Health Canada, Ontario is the first province to take this kind of a step. The Canadian Food Inspection System recommended the changes to the handling of raw fish in the late 1990s, said Health Canada spokesperson Margot Geduld. "Each province can decide to incorporate the recommendations as they see fit," she said.

Worldwide, there are 50 million people with infections attributed to eating raw fish, explained Kurji. In Japan, you actually see a condition called anisakiasis, associated with eating raw fish. The condition can be quite serious, Kurji said, causing victims "to roll about with pain, with nausea, vomiting, etc. One would probably require endoscopic intervention to remove the worms."

"In Quebec, we had an outbreak in 1996 where 17 people were affected from eating raw river fish," he said.

However, infectious disease experts in Toronto can't recall any documented cases of people becoming seriously ill with parasites after eating raw sushi.

Keystone said he can't recall any problems in Toronto arising from raw fish used in sushi. "It baffles me this is an issue when we've never seen a case."

Raw seafood can make you sick, but it is "really unusual" to get a life-threatening illness from sushi, said Dr. Allison McGeer, a microbiologist and infectious disease consultant at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Across Toronto yesterday, sushi chefs and restaurant owners whose menus feature raw fish, sashimi, fish tartare, ceviche, cold-smoked fish, and other uncooked seafood items — food favoured by a huge cross-section of the city's diners — were angered over the changes.

"It's the biggest problem I've faced in 20 years in the business, absolutely overwhelming," said John Lee, owner and chef at Omi, a popular Japanese restaurant on Church St.

"The freezing and thawing process would cause discoloration and ruin the taste and texture of the fish, since the jagged ice particles that melt during the thawing process would leave most seafood spongy, sitting in smelly juice," he said.

All fish would be affected, Lee continued, though oilier varieties such as tuna and salmon would stand up better to freezing than most white fish.

The regulation changes seemed to catch everyone — diners, restaurant owners, even Toronto Public Health officials — by surprise.

Jim Chan, manager of the Toronto Public Health food safety program, said that's why city restaurant owners are getting a three-month reprieve before health officials start enforcing the rules.

"For the first three months, we are doing an education phase, in which during a routine inspection the inspector will introduce this information to the operators," said Chan.

He said restaurant operators could handle the change by dealing with suppliers who will give them a document or invoice certifying the fish has been frozen according to regulation.

George Jung, owner of Pisces Seafood, a high-end fishmonger on Yonge St. near Rosedale, said the problem is not with the freshness of most of the raw fish that's sold in Toronto restaurants, but with the way it is handled, cut and transported.

"There are so many sushi restaurants in this city now, a couple on every block, and so few chefs who are properly trained," he said. "Freezing the fish will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem. It can be frozen and improperly defrosted, then handled and cut by untrained or mediocre chefs who haven't taken proper hygiene precautions. That's the real issue. I've seen tuna cut and filleted on the back of a truck in a dirty alley behind a restaurant.

"That's where the trouble starts."
Deal Addict
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Mar 27, 2003
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Ummm.. this sucks..
I'm moving...
> :(
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Member
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Apr 3, 2003
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Toronto
malbadon wrote:Do they have examples of this happening in Ontario to back up their reasoning for the decision? Not examples from some flea-bite backwoods 3rd world town in Wallawallaland, but ones that actually occured in Sushi restaurants in the province they are regulating?
From an article I've read, they've admitted that it has never been a problem, but it is a "pre-emptive" solution, so that they don't have a problem in the future.

It is just an easier way for them to inspect, rather than ensuring that the sushi chefs are watching for worms in the fish, and discarding it when they encounter it (as all good sushi chefs do).
Deal Addict
Dec 11, 2003
1153 posts
2 upvotes
Oh man this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard! Sushi has been eaten for thousands of years, and what has it caused? Its caused Asians to be some of the healthiest people in the world!

Now I'm just your standard caucasion of Germanic decent who happens to live in the Prairies, but this is rediculous. I started eating sushi this year, and I'm growing fonder of it every time I go, I love it. Now, being that I love it, I can only imagine the outrage the Asian community feels, much less the rest of the population.

If you guys find something to send to and MLA or someone to get this changed, let me know, because us prairie folk would be outraged too!
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Oct 30, 2001
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One of the smartest moves so far.
About time they implemented this change since it's for the better, not only that flash freezing the meat in special freezers that go to -60 C both preserves the texture and flavor of the fish. If these places are caught selling untreated meat they should revoke the lic.
Deal Addict
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Sep 29, 2003
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GTA
I don't think freezing fish is the answer to better sushi. Unfortunately with all this mass farm fishing in achieving cheaper/faster food, we're killing ourselves with toxins.

I remember a time when you cooked Salmon and it was still orange after you cooked? Nowadays it turns white which means its polluted fish.
Deal Expert
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Jun 14, 2003
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What they need to do is to ask Japanese government how to do their QC on fish. Japanese is the one who cares about the purity of the food the most in the world. If they say it is good, it is better than good in our standard.
[OP]
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Oct 20, 2001
18709 posts
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Sauga
gman wrote:What they need to do is to ask Japanese government how to do their QC on fish. Japanese is the one who cares about the purity of the food the most in the world. If they say it is good, it is better than good in our standard.
From the Toronto Star article:

"In Japan, you actually see a condition called anisakiasis, associated with eating raw fish. The condition can be quite serious, Kurji said, causing victims 'to roll about with pain, with nausea, vomiting, etc. One would probably require endoscopic intervention to remove the worms.'

http://www.google.ca/search?q=anisakiasis+sushi

I think we don't really want to have that kind of thing here. :confused:

This page about anisakiasis from sushi mentions that "in the Netherlands the law requires that any fish to be consumed by humans must be frozen before sale".
Deal Addict
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May 19, 2003
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Ancaster
This is stupid and irrational. Why do they ban sushi, but not restrict steakhouses to serve only well-done steaks? Better replace salad with soup and replace sunny-side-up eggs with scrambled, pouched, or hardboiled.

Oh oh oh -- and remember to shutdown Rodney's raw oyster restaurant while you're at it!

The fact is that raw food is more ubiquitous in the North American diet as people wish to acknowledge. It's unfair that Sushi is being singled out as thus.

Much like you accept a risk when ordering medium rare, or downing 6 raw oyseters, you should accept the risk when eating sushi. Instead of banning, why not have licensing requirements instead?
Banned
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Jul 13, 2003
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I'm not a fan of sushi and I hate it. I don't really care for this ban because it doesn't affect me. However I think it's just another BS by-law just like the smoke ban by law. Let the establishment run their own business with out having the goverment to interfere. If customers want to go to an establishment the choice is theirs.
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[OP]
Deal Expert
Oct 20, 2001
18709 posts
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Sauga
From http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Conten ... 8793972154 :

Outcry forces thaw in sushi rules
Ontario to review fresh raw fish ban Input sought from industry


ROB FERGUSON
QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU


After a public outcry, the provincial government is backing away from a strict new ban on the use of fresh raw fish in sushi.

The rules could be loosened if other ways can be found to warn diners of the potential dangers of eating raw fish, Dr. Karim Kurji, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, told the Star. Kurji said there would be a new round of consultations on the issue.

"If the signs seem to point that way, and if the consultation comes up with credible options where we can safeguard public health and at the same time protect people's culinary practices, then that will be the way to go."

Several infectious disease experts have questioned the rationale behind the change requiring sushi fish to first be deep frozen to kill potential parasites, then thawed. Sushi chefs and sushi lovers complained the freezing and thawing could ruin the food's texture.

The new regulation was also mocked by opposition politicians at Queen's Park, given what they feel are more pressing problems in the province. "Half the hospitals are fighting a fiscal fire, they're in crisis, and the government is banning raw sushi?" said Conservative MPP John Baird (Nepean-Carleton).

"The government has no place in the freezers of the nation," he quipped, paraphrasing a famous quote from former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

Kurji said the ban appears to have taken the public by surprise because the original consultation process, which took place over the last two years, somehow missed getting input from the sushi industry.

"In an ideal world we'd hoped that our consultation that occurred would have pointed out all these things, but unfortunately the consultation didn't seem to reach the right people," he acknowledged.

The ban took effect at the beginning of September to bring Ontario up to Health Canada and U.S. standards, although City of Toronto health inspectors were giving restaurateurs three months leeway before enforcing it.

Earlier yesterday, Health Minister George Smitherman defended the ban, saying anecdotal tales that few people get ill from eating raw fish don't qualify as evidence on which to base a public health decision.

"There's lots of international evidence that lots and lots of people get sick from eating raw fish," he said on the way into a cabinet meeting, praising Kurji and chief medical officer of health Sheela Basrur for pushing the change. "On the evaluation of the scientific evidence they have made a decision which, as the minister of health, I am in complete support of," Smitherman said.

That evidence is now being reviewed, Kurji said late yesterday afternoon.

"We have asked Health Canada to send us the background materials that led to their risk assessment so that we can independently review that and see whether we agree with it."

The ministry will also look at existing practices in sushi preparation, to see just how much fish comes already frozen by suppliers.


Kurji noted that some U.S. states require sushi restaurants to put up signs that, in effect, say "buyer beware."

"That may well be one course of action."

John Lee, sushi chef at Omi on Church St., applauded the government's flexibility and said one option would be a government grading system for the quality of fish used in sushi, noting that a lot of people talk about "sushi grade" fish but there is no official grading system, as there is for meat.

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