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NYC to require sushi and ceviche be frozen first

For years, many New York sushi restaurants have lured gourmands by boasting of the freshest fish in the city. But soon, those claims may call for an asterisk.

New regulations, published this week by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, require that fish served raw, undercooked or marinated raw in dishes like ceviche must first be frozen, to guard against parasites. In March, the Board of Health approved the regulations, which now align with Food and Drug Administration recommendations and are set to take effect in August.

That means that by the end of summer all fish used in sushi, sashimi, tartare and other popular raw dishes will make a pit stop in the freezer before they end up on diners’ plates.

Though some customers might blanch at the idea that their coveted crudo and sashimi — sometimes costing hundreds of dollars — emerged from a deep freeze, the truth is that many chefs in the city’s top restaurants have long used frozen fish to prevent serving their raw fare with a side of pathogens.

“We purposely deep-freeze at negative 83 degrees, and we use one of those medical cryogenic freezers,” said Yuta Suzuki, vice president of Sushi Zen, a popular Times Square restaurant. “This way, it’s kind of like cooking, but instead of using heat we use freezing to remove parasites or bacteria on the outer surface.”

Even the New York City chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, which had complained about the regulations at a health department hearing in January, has reversed course. Now that the regulations have been stripped of certain record-keeping requirements that the association considered onerous, establishments serving raw fish should be able to handle the change, James W. Versocki, a legal counselor for the group, said.

“By all indications, everyone will be enjoying the same quality of sushi,” Mr. Versocki said, who noted that the vast majority of fish is already flash frozen at some point in the supply chain.

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