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Ask the experts: Sushi

Q: "Can you tell me how long store-bought sushi lasts? For example, if I buy a pack for lunch one day, can it be saved for lunch the next day?"


A: Julia Clark, a dietitian at New Zealand Food Safety Authority, responds:

"How long store-bought sushi lasts for or whether it's safe to eat the next day depends on three things: the food safety practices of the retailer, how long the sushi is displayed for, and what you do with it next.

Sushi is at particular risk of being contaminated with bacteria during the preparation process. Bacillus cereus and staphylococcus aureus can grow on rice that hasn't been cooled quickly after cooking. If ingredients are contaminated through poor hand hygiene and unclean utensils, you might be at risk of salmonella, campylobacter and listeria. The difficulty is that you can't see this bacteria and looking closely or even smelling the sushi will not help you to know whether it is contaminated or not.

It's common to display sushi for sale at room temperature as this maintains the quality, texture and taste of the product. But this is also the ideal temperature for those harmful bacteria to grow. Some stores may display sushi in a chilled unit (2-4°C) which will prevent any further bacteria growth.

Because of the way most sushi is prepared and stored, there is no guarantee it will be safe or even of good quality a day or two after buying it. If you do buy sushi to eat at a later time, follow these four tips to minimise your risk of getting sick.

  • Buy sushi first thing in the morning and store in your fridge at work to eat for lunch that day or the next.
  • Buy your sushi from an outlet that prepares the sushi fresh in front of you.
  • If ready prepared, buy sushi that is displayed in a chiller (between 2-4°C) – and check the use-by date if it has one.
  • If in doubt, ask the retailer when it was made, how long it has been on display, and how they prepare sushi to make sure it is safe to eat."

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