Food safety expert: Parasitic worms are common in fish
ASBURY PARK — The man who took a video of a seafood dish at a Jersey Shore restaurant has no intention of suing and is glad he brought awareness to the proper preparation of sea food.
James Guinee, an attorney based in Red Bank, posted video of a small parasitic worm that wiggled its way out of a bed or rice in a cod dish served to his girlfriend Jennifer at Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant during dinner on Saturday night.
He is shocked at the attention the video he posted on his Facebook page has received in the form of 178,000 views.
"People are accusing me of setting up a lawsuit. I'm not sure what the basis of a lawsuit would be. This is just something gross that was in a dinner," Guinee told New Jersey 101.5. "Looks like it's raising some awareness. I had no idea that you could get live parasites from eating under cooked fish. A lot of people are learning that thats's the case that they should thoroughly cook or freeze their cod before dinner."
The restaurant, which initially called posting the video "callousness and [an] irresponsible reaction of an attorney of law to attempt to destroy our reputation & possible livelihoods due to something that could have happened to anyone, whether cooking at home or in a restaurant," issued a formal apology on Tuesday and took down the original statement.
"Stella Marina is dedicated to ensuring that our guests enjoy a safe and delicious experience," ownerJoe Cetrulo said in a new statement. "For the past ten years, we have proudly served thousands of customers without incident until this past weekend and for that, we apologize. Out of an abundance of caution, cod has since been removed from our menu."
Don Schaffner, director of the Rutgers Center for Advanced Food Technology in New Brunswick, said it's not unexpected to find these worms in a variety of fish.
"It's not every cod but if you eat cod on a regular basis it's something you're going to see. What's unusual in this case is to find a live one," Schaffner said, adding that the parasites often get trapped in the muscle of the fish.
It depends on what kind of worm was ingested to determine if it's harmful to humans. Some parasites infect only other fish while others infect both fish and human. It's not clear in this case which was ingested by Guinee's girlfriend, who has not seen a doctor and has not become ill since Saturday's incident.
"My advice is that if someone is concerned about this just to make sure that your fish when you receive it is fully cooked and if you're going to eat sushi or other risky fish, ask the restaurant what procedures they have in place, such as freezing fish to control parasites," Schaffner said.
Schaffner said he is not letting this incident scare him away from eating fish.
"I'm going to keep eating fish and encourage everyone else to do the same," Schaffner said.