When you’re craving sushi, nothing else will do. And there it is—right in your grocery store aisle—a whole selection of goodies from California rolls to shrimp nigiri to spicy tuna rolls. As you reach for the container of a dozen rolled delicacies, you pause. Is it safe? Can sushi in a supermarket really be trusted or are you opening yourself up to all sorts of foodborne illnesses?

The good news is that supermarket sushi is just as safe as potato salad or your deli meats. Probably even safer. That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t take a few precautions to make sure the sushi in your supermarket is safe and good to eat.

First, rest assured that your supermarket has to follow the same food safety rules and regulations that restaurants do when it comes to preparing food, controlling time and temperature and making sure foods don’t get cross-contaminated.

Sushi RollOne way you can be sure that your grocery store is committed to the highest standards of on-site sushi preparation, whether it comes to training, ingredient sourcing or HACCP, is to look for the National Registry seal that lets you know they’ve earned the National Registry grocery store certification and that their managers have the Food Safety manager certificate. This tells you they are well trained and know what to do to keep food safe.

What else can you do? Look carefully at the sushi and how it is being sold before you put that container in your shopping cart. Follow these guidelines:

  • Look at the sushi. Does it look fresh? The fish should glisten and not look dry. If the fish looks dry, it is probably old. The rice should look fresh.
  • Smell the sushi. It should smell fresh. If it smells fishy, don’t buy it.
  • Check the sell-by date. Sushi is meant to be eaten the day it is made. Don’t buy sushi if it is more than three days old. Look around at the dates of the other containers of sushi in the refrigerated display. Establishments that rotate their sushi often have product that is selling and not sitting around on the shelf. Rapid business is a sign of good quality food.
  • Eat the sushi the day you buy it. Don’t toss it in your refrigerator to consume days later. Not only will it lose its flavor, but it won’t be as safe. Rice in particular can go bad. So eat it the same day you buy it.
  • Only buy refrigerated sushi. FDA and HACCP require grocery stores to keep sushi refrigerated. If it is at room temperature, don’t buy it. Sushi should be stored below 41 degrees F—though not all grocery stores will have a thermometer where customers can see it.
  • Pick from the bottom of the pile. If the sushi containers are in stacks, choose one from the bottom. It will be kept at a cooler temperature than those on top.
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