Sushi Safety

By Linda Jackson on 16 April 2018

So, love me or hate me, but I do like sushi. I do realise that this is a potentially hazardous food so what does a food safety person look for during sushi preparation?

You are handling potentially hazardous ingredients

Potentially hazardous foods and raw materials will need to be stored refrigerated. This would include the seafood.

  • make sure all your suppliers deliver your ingredients in a refrigerated truck
  • Once received, make sure you get all potentially hazardous foods into the fridge at 5°C or less immediately.
  • Refrigerated raw ingredients must be stored separately from:
    o Finished sushi; and
    o Ready-to-eat foods and ingredients such as tuna or salmon
  • Raw foods must not be placed above ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator, to prevent the raw juices from dripping onto them.
  • It’s always best to cover your refrigerated ingredients to protect against contamination.



Preparing sushi involves a great deal of handling of both raw and cooked foods. Because sushi is eaten without any further cooking it is important that it is prepared correctly and safely.

Raw foods can contain bacteria and, if not handled correctly, the numbers of bacteria can grow. Poor handling of cooked foods can result in them becoming cross-contaminated from raw foods, and if not stored correctly, the number of bacteria can also grow.


Equipment and utensils

  • We would normally not allow wood in a food business but the exception is bamboo mats. Ideally these should also be covered with clingwrap as they cannot be cleaned effectively. Replace the clingwrap often in the day.
  • Make sure you only use clean and sanitised equipment when preparing sushi. Clean everything at least daily preferably more.
  • Make sure the table /counter surfaces are also clean and sanitized before you start and clean them regularly during service.
  • All utensils and equipment must be cleaned to remove build-up of rice and other ingredients that occurs during service.
  • Boards and utensils must be cleaned and sanitised in between preparing different foods, especially when preparing ingredients that are used raw and those that might be cooked. Rather use different colour boards to make sure.


Personal hygiene

You need to manage the sushi creators!

  • People who are sick with vomiting, diarrhoea or fever can’t be making sushi
  • Make sure ready-to-eat food is only touched by hands when absolutely essential. Wash hands prior to preparing sushi and after handling non-food articles, using the toilet, smoking, drinking, eating and touching hair, scalp or body.
  • Wash hands between handling of raw ingredients and ready-to-eat foods.

Make sure you monitor your staff closely to ensure they don’t sneeze, cough or eat while handling the sushi. Regular training is essential.

Make sure they cover their hair – the best way is a hairnet.


Use of disposable gloves

It is not mandatory for food handlers to use disposable gloves, but if you so make sure that they are

  • Only used for one continuous task and then discarded;
  • Regularly changed to avoid cross-contamination – this is especially the case when changing from preparing raw ingredients to handling ready to-eat foods;
  • When taken off they must always be discarded and not kept for use later; and
  • Removed and discarded before using the toilet, smoking, eating, drinking or touching the hair, scalp or body.


Preparation of acidified rice

One of the most important control measures you use to avoid people getting sick is acidifying the sushi rice. Adding the vinegar changes the pH to less than 4.6 will inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

Once acidified, the rice must be stored covered when not being used. Acidified rice can be stored up to 8 hours and at the end of the day, the remaining rice must be discarded.

Make sure your recipe is in line with the recommendations listed in the references below. You can even test the pH yourself to make sure. It’s always a good idea to keep a record of this everytime you make rice.

Note: If cooked rice is not acidified, it must be stored under refrigeration at or below 5°C at all times.


Preparation of fillings and sushi

  • All potentially hazardous raw materials must be kept in the fridge until you use them – this is especially the case for raw fish.
  • Acidified rice should be at room temperature
  • Vegetables must be washed before use.
  • Once prepared, sushi should be put back into the fridge (at 5°C or less) unless it is being displayed for sale immediately.


Remember that your display cabinets will not effectively reduce the temperature of prepared sushi. So Businesses with limited storage and display space should only make an amount of sushi that can be properly placed within the storage or display section. Sushi must not be left unrefrigerated unless on display.


Ready made sushi

  • Only receive sushi that has been transported in refrigerated vehicles.
  • Always check the temperature of sushi for each batch received. The temperature must be 5°C or less.
  • Once received, sushi must be:
    o Kept refrigerated at 5°C or less; or
    o Placed on retail display immediately.
  • Sushi must be covered during receipt and storage to protect against Contamination


Sushi Bars

  • Ideally display cabinets must include doors to protect food from the likelihood of contamination and maintain the temperature control inside the cabinet.
  • When not in use, doors on the display cabinet must be closed. Alternatively sushi on display must be covered.
  • Display cabinets must be cleaned and sanitised at the end of the day.


Sushi conveyor system

  • All plates on conveyer must be covered to protect from contamination.
  • After they have been used, all plates and lids must be cleaned and sanitised.
  • No sushi should be left on the conveyor unrefrigerated for than 2 hours.
  • Make sure your sushi conveyor system is out of direct wind. Also ensure you consider fly control measures and this is NOT a sticky fly paper trap, doom nor an electrocution device over the conveyor belt!
  • Make sure you have enough handwash basins inside the belt as often the same prep bowl is used to wash hands and this is NOT the correct way to prevent cross contamination.



Following this simple rules every day and by being vigilant will help to protect you from customers accusing you of making them ill. It’s the right thing to do.