Japan's 'Heated' Sushi Could Mean The End Of Tricky Pregnancy Cravings

Whether you're a fan of sushi rolls, omakase menus, or thinly-sliced pieces of sashimi, one rule holds true for all raw fish lovers: Eating sushi while pregnant is off-limits. However, one Japanese company is trying to flip that long-held health rule on its head with a new product aimed at pregnant sushi enthusiasts.

According to Foodsafety.gov, people who are pregnant or may become pregnant are encouraged to avoid consuming raw fish throughout pregnancy. Raw, undercooked, and smoked seafood, like sushi, sashimi, clams, oysters, and mussels, is at a higher risk of containing bacteria, parasites, and mercury. This poses a particular threat during pregnancy when the immune system is weakened. "Due to immune system changes during pregnancy, pregnant [people] are more susceptible to infection, which can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, uterine infection, and preterm delivery," said Doctor Kristian Morey to Healthline.

While most seafood cooked to 145 degrees F is considered safe for pregnant consumption, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against eating fish high in mercury, like bigeye tuna, swordfish, marlin, and king mackerel, even when fully cooked. They may cause neurological issues in fetuses. Due to the various risks associated with fish consumption during pregnancy, most medical experts encourage pregnant patients to stop eating raw fish in the earliest days of pregnancy. 

For particularly passionate sushi fans, abstaining from seafood can be a trying part of pregnancy. However, one Japanese company is coming to pregnant sushi lovers' rescue with a tasty new product.

This cooked fish is a safe alternative to raw sushi

According to SoraNews24, the Japanese-based Kanetsu empowers pregnant people to enjoy sushi again with a new high-quality cooked sushi product. In the fall of 2021, Kanetsu, which means "heated" in Japanese, ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to fund its pregnancy-friendly sushi, which consists of cooked sashimi-grade fish served atop blocks of sushi rice. After assembly, the sushi pieces are flash-frozen to minimize potential bacteria exposure and ensure that the flavor of the fish will hold up well during the shipping process.

In the brand's Twitter bio, Kanetsu describes its product as "cooked sushi that everyone can enjoy deliciously, even those who refrain from eating raw food due to pregnancy or illness," with carefully-selected toppings "that enhance their flavor when heated." The brand's sushi boxes, retailing for 6,900 yen (or around $48), consisting of nine pieces of sushi, including salmon, shrimp, scallops, squid, uni, amberjack, sea bream, saltwater eel, and tamagoyaki. They will be available to order beginning on November 22.

Pregnant consumers took to social media to share their excitement for the risk-free sushi, including one Twitter user who shared: "I recently found out I'm pregnant, and I thought I'd say goodbye to my favorite sushi for the time being, so I'm so happy." While it's unclear when or if the Kanetsu sushi boxes will be available outside of Japan, an American alternative would likely be a hit among pregnant sushi lovers from coast to coast.