I was wondering if IKEA's frozen salmon was safe to be eaten raw in a home cooking environment? It's farmed which is a plus from what I've read, but I couldn't really find any data on their freezing process (except their little note about customer storing conditions that says it should be kept at -18°C or bellow).

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    You may want to tweak your question title to make it a bit less ambiguous – I read the title and was wondering when IKEA started selling frozen salmon sushi. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 20 at 17:25
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    I personally don't trust sushi that isn't prepared by a Japan-trained (not just "Asian-looking") sushi chef, and I certainly never buy so-called "sushi-grade" fish to prepare at home. There is way more to sushi safety than people realize. – Robusto Nov 20 at 18:06
  • This may vary by country, as they probably don't use the same supplier for the whole world, so you might want to edit the question to be more specific about which Ikea. – Peter Taylor Nov 21 at 11:10
  • Did you want to know if it's safe to eat after being defrosted? – Matthew E Cornish Nov 21 at 15:28
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    @Robusto - I'm curious about your "There is way more to sushi safety than people realize" comment, and it seems too broad to address in comments here, so I asked it as a question: How to make safe sushi – Johnny Nov 21 at 22:46

Unless if it's labelled "sushi-grade" or "sashimi-grade", they probably don't freeze it deeply enough, so I wouldn't recommend it as-is. This is because of Salmon's high risk of parasites. However, you can turn it into sushi-grade fish if you have a freezer that reaches -20°C, and don't mind waiting.

Here in British Columbia, the government has Sushi Safety guidelines (as there are a huge number of sushi restaurants here) which instructs to use one of the following methods to destroy parasites in raw fish (except for Tuna, in which freezing is not required) when served in restaurants;

  • Store frozen at -20°C or below for 7 days
  • Store frozen at -35°C or below for 15 hours
  • Store it at -35°C until solid, and then keep it at -20° or below for 24 hours. Actually, it may be better to read Manitoba's version of this document, as it gives clearer instructions for the same process.

After the fish has gone through this "sushi-grade" process, it is safe to store it at -18° before eating it raw. This is the most common temperature for household freezers, and probably grocery store freezers.

Disclosure: I have never done this process myself. However, I have never gotten sick from eating sushi in Vancouver, where they are supposedly following these guidelines. I have occasionally heard of others getting sick for a day (allegedly) from sushi, though this may just be because the restaurant (or fish distributor) made a mistake.

Update: It appears that the terms "sushi-grade" & "sashimi-grade" are not regulated by either US or Canadian law, and probably not in the UK either.

It appears the EU laws are more liberal, only requiring 24 hours at -20° for wild salmon, and don't require any freezing for Scottish-farmed Atlantic salmon (due to low risk of parasites). The salmon at Ikea is probably farmed Atlantic, so it might actually qualify (so much for everything that I wrote), though I'm not certain. I unfortunately don't have any research data, so I'm just going by law.

For alternatives, you can go with tuna, which is rather low-risk even without the deep-freezing, which is often not required by law. If you don't mind being less traditional, you can also use smoked salmon or sous-vide salmon.

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    Worth pointing out that the "sushi grade" label is completely unregulated, it doesn't indicate any uniform method of preparation or level of safety. Stores do have a vested interest in keeping you safe, so "sushi grade" fish likely is less likely to make you ill when eaten raw, but it's incorrect to assume that all "sushi grade" fish has gone through the same "sushi grade process". – Nuclear Wang Nov 20 at 14:11
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    Manitoba's version of the document probably just says to put the fish out in the snow for a day. -40C is just another day in the life there... – J... Nov 20 at 17:56
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    I try to believe the things said here, and there are links to official guidelines. But this is the first time ever that I hear that stuff gets killed by low temperature. I was always operating under the assumption that the little buggers only get, well, frozen, and keep replicating happily when thawed - and get killed only by reaching a certain warmer temperature (e.g., ~40°C for beneficial bacteria involved in baking bread, or ~70-80°C-ish for harmful meat stuff). Do you have a link to some ressource that shows how that works for low temperatures, scientifically? – AnoE Nov 21 at 12:01
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    Also... if this is possible, why do we bother with keeping stuff cold all the time anyways, and don't just have big local deep-freezers etc., making it much less problematic if something thaws which should not? – AnoE Nov 21 at 12:03
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    @AnoE slight freezing destroys most wormy parasites and their watery bodies; the hard freezing is to destroy the tougher parasite eggs specifically (see Seamonkies' eggs: survival mechanisms for long tough times!). The shrinking/re-expanding and the ice crystals in cells eventually, mechanically, destroys (statistically) all of them; just like flavour "flattens" over each freezing/thawing cycle, it's various molecules that get mechanically destroyed. The various options of procedures (shorter at colder temperatures) come from experiments that had to destroy a pre-set percentage of parasites. – user3445853 Nov 21 at 12:24

If you can't find details then it's pretty likely it is not sushi safe, and I would certainly make that assumption. Sushi safe freezing would add extra costs and Ikea is all about low costs. Plus, it wouldn't be necessary if the fish is going to be cooked or cured, and that's how most want to use it. If it was sushi safe I'd expect to see it clearly marked on the packaging - it's good for marketing.

  • Probably true and safest path but not necessarily right: All commercially available coconuts are "organic" or "bio", but paying for the label and its inspections/paperwork isn't normally worth it. You have to know/study IKEA's cold chain to decide. I'm not in the business, but I imagine e.g., freezing at -20C making economic sense even if the law only prescribes -18C: Say after a 3h power cut the whole storage facility is still at -18.2C so you don't have to destroy the whole stock; same idea smaller scale for cold vans that get stuck in traffic. So it's risk (= chance x cost) of losing stock. – user3445853 Nov 21 at 12:32
  • In some countries, you're mandated to freeze at -35. I've worked in such warehouses, and it's not big deal. The issue is unheat loss so to speak. THAT BEING SAID, there's no way of knowing how Ikea freezes its stuff where you live, unless oyu ask them. – Haakon Løtveit Nov 21 at 14:01

I know in the UK at least the freezers in Ikea stores as well as other stores are set to under -20ºC as standard. most likely hovering around -21ºC to -22ºC.

Home freezers are also -20ºC by default. So if -18ºC in considered sushi grade then it would pass that test by default almost everywhere.

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    What home freezers are -20C by default??? – Behacad Nov 20 at 16:02
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    @Behacad: the US FDA recommends keeping freezers at 0F (-18C). – copper.hat Nov 20 at 17:25
  • Oh I see. A F and C confusion here – Behacad Nov 20 at 20:49
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    I would strongly recommend adding labels to your values. – Warlord 099 Nov 20 at 21:58
  • I've once done precision temperature measurements in a freezer (with a thermometer with a fast response time) and, possibly in order not to get any warmer than -18°C, the freezer temperature oscillated between -22°C and -18°C, resulting in an average of -20°C. – Klaws Nov 22 at 9:50

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