Why are there less food-borne illnesses associated w/ fish?

Opposed to chicken, pork, and beef?

Why do most people eat raw fish and be okay, but it isn’t usually the case when we consume other forms of meat raw?

You can safely eat raw beef IF you start with a healthy animal, slaughter it in a clean facility and don’t expose it to contamination. The problem is that you can’t be sure this is the case with meat you buy in the market today, especially with ground beef.

In the past, swine were fed garbage, including meat that could well contain parasites such as trichinosis. These days pigs are usually free of that problem but again there is the introduction of contamination during processing.

This is not to say that all commercial meat is unhealthy; most of it probably is. The problem is that you can’t tell which is and which isn’t.

You can’t eat just any raw fish and be okay. Fish can also contain parasites.

Right. You can eat high-quality beef steak raw or near raw without any problems and plenty of people do. Most people are more scared of pork than they should be and most people overcook it. Trichinosis is serious but incredibly rare these days in the U.S. Lamb can also be eaten very rare. Raw chicken is just nasty so there is no reason to eat it that way even if you raised them outside of their typical conditions.

Most meat contamination occurs during large-scale processing so one infected animal can contaminate an indefinite number of others via residue in the machinery. It is impossible to keep it perfectly clean. Almost all ground beef is contaminated by e.coli for instance but not at levels that are harmful to healthy people. Fish meant for raw eating like in sushi are individually prepared and don’t have these issues.

I suspect there are a couple of other factors: for one, fish spoils at much lower temperatures than land animals, so you simply don’t get things like aged fish (barring Scandinavian travesties). Since fresh fish is necessarily more common, sushi isn’t as far from the norm as beef tartare is. I’d guess that makes the economics of it much easier - if you only need slightly fresher fish, but you need much, much fresher beef, the cost increase is easier for fish.

Also, fish muscle is much easier to chew than beef (I’ve never eaten raw chicken or pork, so I can’t say there). Steak Tartare has to be cut very finely to be easily edible, but you can get a decent-sized chunk of fish. Sure, it doesn’t rule out raw meat, but it sure gives a leg up to sushi.

I’ll ignore the implied insults to lutefisk and pickled herring, but have you never had fish jerky? Or smoked salmon? Or kippered herring? Salt cod is probably rare for a reason at this point, but it certainly existed and was eaten at some point.

I tell you, Preserved Fish likely would not have turned up his nose at preserved fish!

Fish also has to be handled very carefully for it to be safe to eat raw. I wouldn’t recommend going to your supermarket deli and chowing down on the filets there.

This is a WAG, but meat mostly comes from warm blooded mammals. Their intestinal floras are suited to living in a very similar environment to our bodies, so when it contaminates the meat it’s a bad thing for us.

Fish are cold and the bacteria in fish might not find humans a good host.

Since one of the dangers from raw fish is parasites this is obviously not a perfect theory, but it seems to me it’s one with at least some merit.

Sure – why do you think they call it “salmonella”?

(JUST KIDDING!! Salmonella was named after Daniel Elmer Salmon, the administrator of the research project that discovered the bacterium.)

Eat fresh water fish raw and you have a good chance of getting sick. Saltwater fish usually don’t harbor micro-organisms that survive in our fresh water type bodies. But macro-organisms do. That’s why sashimi grade fish must be carefully inspected for parasites. Even fish that travel between fresh and salt water such as salmon can be a problem. Also, salt water fish taken from warmer or polluted waters can harbor some nasty bugs. And some salt water fish like mackeral are very prone to spoilage and almost always found marinated or cured in some way in sushi.

I always thought it was the opposite. Isn’t the human body kept at a salinity very similar to ocean?

Salt water fish have an internal salinity much like ours, but their entire metabolism is much different. I’m not good at biology though, so someone else would have to provide the details. There is also the factor that the germs that would harm us would not survive in the ocean with it’s high salinity, but will in fresh water.

While I agree that raw chicken is quite slimy and gag-tastic, I’m told it’s eaten quite regularly in Japan. The Japanese tend to eat all sorts of things that make me raise an eyebrow, mind.

I would argue a difference between aged and preserved, but you’re right, of course. Smoked salmon is one of the foods of the gods. Hákarl, not so much. Well, not any god* I’d *want to meet.

But, by definition, preserved meat is designed to be inhospitable to microorganisms that cause disease. Aging is actually designed to let some breakdown occur.