Your chopsticks and wasabi at the ready, you sit down to enjoy a California roll, a staple of sushi restaurants everywhere. But what you’re likely about to eat doesn’t contain crab as you might expect, and with food allergies, the devil is always in the details.
Crab is expensive and hard to come by in many areas of the country, so it is common practice for restaurants that serve sushi to substitute imitation crab which may be hiding ingredients you are allergic to.
Imitation crab starts with surimi, minced fish flesh. Surimi is usually made with pollock, a type of white fish, but can be made with combinations of other similar fin fishes as well. For those coping with fish allergies, this may be a trigger.
While surimi generally contains no crab meat, it may be flavored with crab extract to give it its characteristic flavor. As you might expect, crab extract could potentially be a trigger for those coping with crustacean shellfish allergies.
Other ingredients of imitation crab generally include:
- Starch to help firm the surimi, which may be made from potato, wheat, or corn;
- Egg whites or soy which help give the surimi its gloss and texture;
- Salt and sugar.
How the specific imitation crab sitting on your plate was made may be unknown to the restaurant staff as it may have been purchased in bulk from a distributor.
We encourage you to speak with the manager who should be able to check the ingredients with his supplier. But as always, if you find the management unable or unwilling to help determine whether you can safely eat at the establishment, we encourage you to move on to an eatery where you can be safely accommodated.
And regardless of where you go, always take 2 epinephrine auto-injectors along everywhere, every time because they are your lifeline should you be inadvertently exposed to your allergens of concern.