Wednesday, August 28, 2013


One of the most frequent reader search questions on this blog is "can pregnant women eat ceviche." Or, a different wording of the same question. But I have never focused on the issue directly, although I have mentioned it in a more general context. And The Safe Food Handbook: How to Make Smart Choices about Risky Food does discuss it. So maybe I should also do a post on it here.

Ceviche is a very popular Latin American dish made of raw fish and/or shellfish which is marinated in lime or lemon juice. In Peru, where I lived for several years, it is usually served with thinly sliced onions, chili peppers and with corn on the cob and/or sweet potatoes. But of course, there are variations, particularly as the dish is increasingly copied and adapted by chefs all over the world.

The theory is that the citrus juice will lightly "cook" the fish or shellfish as it sits in the refrigerator for a few hours. It does indeed change proteins in the seafood, but unfortunately it doesn't kill bacteria or parasites, and believe me, there can be plenty of them in raw seafood.

Shellfish ceviche can be particularly risky, since the majority of seafood-caused food poisoning is caused by raw shellfish.

So should pregnant women eat ceviche? The answer is "no." This also applies to anyone who is serious about avoiding food poisoning.

And here's a confession: I love ceviche. But I have now become ill from it twice, the last time in Peru, when I went back for a wedding. My Peruvian friend persuaded me to eat it, although I was reluctant. She assured me that this high-end restaurant was safe. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, although I knew better. NO ceviche is safe. Of course, in retrospect, I wish I hadn't eaten it. It was delicious, but I got a nasty parasite from it. Sadly, I have now given up ceviche.

To your good health,



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Anonymous said...

Cook the fish then chill it before making ceviche. You'll be safe with the baby. McDonald's is worse. Ignore psycobabble. ^

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same ^^Since i love ceviche and never have gotten sick from it which by the way i've ate plenty of, both out of the home & homemade. Yes it was made the raw way but while being pregnant i do understand raw foods even if cooked in lemon are high risk for the baby. Therefor using cooked fish or shrimp and then continuing with the recipe migth just take the craving away :)

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Milhu Ables said...

I make ceviche all the time but I NEVER ever use raw shrimp or fish!! It's always cooked and I continue with the regular recipe and always come out delicious!!! I'm 15 weeks pregnant now and eating my "cooked shrimp " ceviche.. yum yum

Deanna Ruiz said...

So then shrimp is still safe? I just ate at a buffet and pigged down shrimp Ceviche it was the best tasting dish they had that and muscles. I’m almost 5 weeks pregnant. I was full for days but I have yet to be sick from food or the pregnancy

Rich Belleza said...

Hi, so how do you cook your fish and what type do you use?

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Anonymous said...

If you leave the fish submerged in citrus juice overnight, it should be fine. Especially if the fish you used was extremely fresh. I've never once got sick from it being done this way. Here in New Zealand, we call it 'raw fish salad' and usually.let the meat cook in citrus for at least 12 hours.