The New York State Department of Health is looking to crack down on restaurants again, this time adding stringent requirements like requiring restaurants to freeze their raw, sushi or sashimi-grade fish, which publications like Brooklyn Magazine have called the “war on sushi.” In reality, though, New Yorkers should probably quit freaking out because keeping sushi-grade fish frozen prior to serving and consumption is already a federal law, so New York City restaurants that don’t comply are serving food illegally.
According to the FDA, all fish (including fish meant to be eaten raw), must be frozen at -31 degrees Fahrenheit to significantly diminish or eliminate the possibility of consumption of dangerous parasites. The FDA states that, “a survey of U.S. gastroenterologists confirmed that seafood-borne parasitic infections occur in the United States with sufficient frequency to recommend preventive controls during the processing of parasite-containing species of fish that are intended for raw consumption.”
Not only is consumption of never-frozen sushi illegal in the U.S., but freezing sushi prior to consumption is actually a common practice in Japan, the birthplace of sushi, where as recently as 2004, half of the sushi served was frozen beforehand. According to Naomichi Yasuda, the former head chef at Yasuda in New York, sushi is actually improved by freezing it, and, as he said on the Tokyo episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown: "The freshest fish, there is no taste," he said. "It is just chewing."