Human health, legislative and socioeconomic issues caused by the fish-borne zoonotic parasite Anisakis: Challenges in risk assessment

Miguel Bao* (Corresponding Author), Graham J. Pierce, Norval J.C. Strachan, Santiago Pascual, Miguel González-Muñoz, Arne Levsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Nematodes of the genus Anisakis parasitize many commercial fish species and are responsible for a fish-borne zoonosis (anisakiasis) and allergic reactions. Anisakis can also cause consumer distrust in fishery products and economic losses to the fish industry. Scope and approach: We review current socioeconomic, legislative, risk management and human health problems caused by the occurrence of Anisakis in fishery products and discuss possible strategies to mitigate them. Key findings and conclusions: Visual inspection (and candling) of fishery products as required by EU legislation is not efficient for parasite detection. Consequently, visible (and non-visible) Anisakis reach the market and may be detected (and eaten) by consumers. Marine fish appears to be the only industrial food product that is at high risk of containing parasites when placed on the market. Anisakiasis and allergy to Anisakis are hidden, underestimated emerging zoonoses worldwide. There is a need to better understand the impact of these zoonoses on individual health and particularly exposed human populations, and to assess the risk posed by Anisakis allergens in fishery products. Quantitative risk assessment (QRA) is identified as an appropriate methodology as it estimates the risk from fishing ground to human disease. Improvements in parasite control legislation and procedures (e.g. establishment of research-based and standardized parasite detection methodologies, appropriate sampling strategies, development of non-destructive methods for detection and removal of nematodes from fish products), suitable for use by seafood businesses, are recommended to improve protection of consumers and to protect the industry by minimizing Anisakis-associated economic losses. QRA may help to provide the scientific basis for improved food safety legislation and strategies to reduce the risk of anisakiasis/allergy in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-310
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Food Science and Technology
Early online date8 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Miguel Bao was partially supported by a PhD grant from the University of Aberdeen and by additional support from the EU-project PARASITE. We wish to especially thank all the partners involved in the EU-Project PARASITE consortium for their valuable contribution to the ideas herein presented.


  • Allergy
  • Anisakiasis
  • Anisakis
  • Food safety
  • Public health
  • Risk management


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