NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — A man was in the check-out line at a New York Costco recently when he said something caught his eye -- and turned his stomach.
Jack Sanchez, a Manhattan hair stylist, told WPIX he spotted something moving under the plastic wrap of the Fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon in the cart of a woman ahead of him.
“That’s disgusting,” Sanchez immediately thought, then he pointed it out to the woman, who then asked to speak with the store manager.
Sanchez said the manager told them “it was pretty normal that salmon had a worm or parasite.”
Sanchez said he expected the manager to remove all the salmon from the refrigerator cases, but that didn’t happen. The manager simply took the package of salmon away, but not before Jack shot cellphone video of the worm.
A quick internet search brings up pages of posts from Costco customers across the country complaining about finding worms in the salmon. Most included pictures of the parasites moving around on the raw fish. Two years ago, Japanese tapeworms were found on salmon at multiple Costco stores in San Diego.
This isn't just a Costco issue, according to Professor Don Schaffner at the Rutger’s Center for Advanced Food Technology.
Schaffner said there are many types of worms and other parasites that can be present in both wild and farm-raised salmon. They do pose a potential health risk.
Consuming raw or undercooked fish containing live parasites my cause cramping, nausea, diarrhea and weight loss. Less common are serious reactions, including intestinal blockage and inflammation of the bile ducts.
“In a really bad infection, you might die. A lot depends on how big a dose of parasites and also how healthy in your immune system," Schaffner said.
Schaffner said consumers are taking a risk by eating salmon sushi, cold smoked salmon and salmon ceviche if they are made with raw, fresh fish.
The good news is that you can reduce the health risk from parasites to almost zero by properly heating or freezing the fish. The coldest part of the fish has to be cooked to a temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the parasites.
Schaffner advised using a thermometer at home and insisting the restaurant do the same when ordering salmon. As for freezing, fish needs to be frozen for at least seven days at a temperature of -4 degrees Fahrenheit to kill parasites, according to the FDA.
Schaffner said to ask if the sushi, cold smoked salmon or ceviche are made from frozen fish. If so, it can be eaten with confidence.
WPIX reached out to Costco’s corporate spokesman at the company’s headquarters in Seattle to ask what type of quality control is used to deal with the potential of worms in the seafood it sells, but, as of Tuesday, the local TV station had not received a reply.