Shrimp is a crustacean eaten throughout the world.

Their hard, translucent shells range from brown to grey in color. They’re sweet in taste and have a tender or firm texture, depending on the variety.

Although shrimp are a popular delicacy in many countries, many people believe that they’re unsafe to eat raw.

This article tells you whether raw shrimp are safe to eat.

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Raw shrimp are eaten in many cultures worldwide. In some regions, the liquid inside their heads is considered a delicacy.

In Japan, it’s common to find fresh sashimi made of raw shrimp, while in China, this shellfish is sometimes eaten live after being soaked in a strong liquor called baijiu.

Yet, shrimp may harbor bacteria, viruses, and parasites that could lead to food poisoning or illnesses (1, 2, 3).

Nonetheless, shrimp is one of the most commonly consumed shellfish in the United States and accounts for 50% of total global aquafarming. It’s also a good source of several nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and iodine (3, 4, 5).

Still, the harmful bacteria and viruses that may exist in shrimp can only be killed through high-temperature cooking (3, 6).

Due to the risk of food poisoning, raw shrimp are considered unsafe to eat.

Summary Shrimp is a nutritious and popular shellfish. However, eating them raw is not recommended, as it may increase your risk of food poisoning.

One in every six Americans experiences food poisoning each year (7, 8).

Consuming raw shrimp increases your risk of food poisoning and food contamination.

May contain harmful bacteria

Raw shrimp often contain a bacterium called Vibrio. Over 70 species exist, 12 of which are known to cause illness in humans (9, 10, 11, 12).

A study in 299 raw shrimp samples determined that 55% contained potentially harmful Vibrio species responsible for conditions like gastritis, cholera, and infections (12).

In addition, a study in farmed shrimp found 100 strains of Vibrio, many of which were resistant to antibiotic treatment (13).

In a review of 10 seafood processing plants in Nigeria, 100% of shrimp harbored Bacillus bacteria, which is commonly associated with diarrhea and vomiting (14).

May lead to illness

Food poisoning is a common illness associated with eating bacteria-laden foods. Symptoms may include vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea (8).

In fact, over 90% of food poisoning cases are caused by Salmonella, E. coli, Vibrio, or Bacillus, all of which can be found in raw shrimp (15, 16, 17).

In addition, norovirus is a contagious illness commonly linked to eating raw shellfish like shrimp (16, 18).

Around 1 billion diarrhea-related food poisonings occur worldwide each year. Over 5,000 people die annually from foodborne illnesses in the United States alone (16).

As such, older adults, pregnant women, and young children should take special care to avoid raw or undercooked shrimp, as these populations may have compromised immune systems and are thus at a higher risk of catching a fatal illness (17, 18).

Summary Raw shrimp may contain harmful bacteria and viruses that could lead to illness or death. Those with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, should take extra precautions to avoid raw or undercooked shrimp.

Eating raw shrimp is not recommended because of the risk of food poisoning.

Therefore, cooking shrimp properly is the safest way to eat them.

As improper harvesting, handling, and storage techniques can increase the risk of contamination, it’s best to buy high-quality shrimp from a reputable source. Look for a label certifying safe processing in accordance with food safety guidelines (19, 20).

Fresh shrimp should be refrigerated and consumed within four days or frozen for up to five months (20).

The safest way to thaw frozen shrimp is to take it out of its packaging and store it in a refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours. This minimizes the spread of harmful bacteria (20).

To prepare, wash your shrimp thoroughly, as any dirt may conceal bacteria, and ensure that other food items stay at a safe distance to prevent cross-contamination (20).

While such techniques may reduce the growth of some harmful bacteria, they won’t kill all of the bacteria present. Thus, even if you prepare them carefully, raw shrimp still pose a risk of illness.

Instead, you should cook shrimp until they are opaque or pink in color or have reached an internal temperature of 1450F (63℃). Most harmful bacteria and viruses are eliminated during the cooking process (20, 21, 22).

Summary Some preparation techniques may help reduce the growth of bacteria in raw shrimp, but you should always cook it properly to minimize your risk of food poisoning.

Shrimp is a popular shellfish enjoyed globally.

However, consuming it raw poses a health risk, as it may contain harmful bacteria and viruses.

While some preparation techniques for raw shrimp can reduce your risk of food poisoning, only cooking it thoroughly can kill bacteria and viruses.