Is Sushi Safe to Eat?
March 08, 2011
I have a question that I haven’t found much information about. I was diagnosed with celiac disease last year, and am learning more every day. I heard that I shouldn’t eat sushi because of the rice used, but I haven’t found a reason why. Most vinegars, except malt, are okay for celiacs, so what is in the sushi rice that makes it off limits? Thank you so much for your response!
Hi Jan. It’s best to call the restaurant ahead or ask your server how the sushi is prepared. Some sushi rice uses non-distilled white vinegar, which is made from either corn or wheat. If this is the vinegar used, then the sushi rice will contain gluten. In addition, sushi rice is sometimes prepared with a chicken broth that contains gluten…another reason to ask in advance.
In the event that the sushi rice is made with distilled white vinegar or rice vinegar and doesn’t contain other gluten-containing ingredients, you can still come into contact with gluten if the sushi preparer isn’t careful about preventing cross contamination with sushi pieces that utilize soy sauce and/or other ingredients containing gluten. For example, there are many multi-ingredient sushi rolls that are prepared with special sauces, toppings or fried breading that contain gluten. If the sushi maker isn’t changing cutting boards, knives and gloves between preparing different sushi rolls, cross contamination is likely.
To avoid cross contamination, precise communication with the sushi maker is necessary. Ask about the ingredients and be clear about how important it is for the sushi maker to use sterilized cutting surfaces and utensils when preparing your sushi. If the sushi maker cannot accommodate your request, you may feel more comfortable ordering something else from the menu.
Rachel Begun, MS, RD