Can You Eat Raw Crab? Exploring the Safety and Risks

Can you eat raw crab?

When it comes to eating seafood, there is often confusion about whether certain creatures can be eaten raw or should be cooked. Sushi, for example, is made from raw fish, so what about crab? Can you eat raw crab?
Crab meat should not be eaten raw due to the possible presence of harmful microorganisms. Raw crab may contain disease-causing bacteria and a parasite that causes lung disease. In addition, the texture of raw crab is unpleasant, as the meat is moist and mushy. It’s important to note that the crab served in sushi rolls is usually imitation crab meat.

What is crab meat?

Crabs are aquatic creatures with a long history dating back to the Jurassic period. They are found in oceans, fresh water and on land. These crustaceans have a thick shell covering their bodies, several pairs of legs, and well-developed claws with sharp pincers.
Crab meat is considered a delicacy in many countries and is consumed in various ways around the world. However, extracting the meat from a crab can be a challenging task. The fleshy parts are hidden inside the thick outer shell and careful skill is required to extract the meat in the best possible condition. While prepared crab meat is readily available in stores, enjoying fresh crab meat straight from the shell is often considered the tastiest option.

Why is it unsafe to eat raw crab?

The primary reason that raw crab is unsafe to eat is the potential presence of microorganisms that can be harmful to human health. These include parasites such as lung flukes and bacteria such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio cholerae. While not all crab meat carries these microorganisms, the risk is significant enough for food safety authorities to recommend that crab be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
Eating raw crab contaminated with bacteria can cause food poisoning, resulting in severe vomiting and diarrhea. It is also possible to contract cholera from eating raw crab. Lung flukes in raw crab meat can cause lung disease that can take several years to recover from and can even progress to meningitis.
While suppliers take precautions to ensure the safety of crab meat, it is important to cook raw crab thoroughly if purchased for home preparation. Cooking is the only reliable method of eliminating these microorganisms.

What does raw crab taste like?

Aside from safety concerns, raw crab is not commonly used in sushi dishes due to its unappealing texture. Raw crab meat can be watery and mushy, which many people find unappetizing. In contrast, cooked crab meat develops a much more appealing flavor and texture.
There is an exception in some countries, such as South Korea, where marinated raw crab is served as a delicacy. This is not recommended, however, as raw crab meat should be thoroughly cooked to ensure both safety and better flavor.

Crab in Sushi: Cooked or Raw?

Sushi, a popular Japanese cuisine, often includes crab as part of the meal. However, the crab in sushi is usually imitation crab. This is fish that has been dyed and flavored to resemble crab meat. It is commonly sold as crab sticks or seafood sticks in the frozen food section of stores.
Simulated crab is a highly processed food with artificial additives. While some people may choose to avoid it, it can be a great alternative to crab when you’re making sushi. The reason that imitation crab can be used right out of the package is that it is already cooked. It is precooked and safe to eat without further preparation.

How to buy and prepare crab

When buying crab, it’s important to choose the right type and make sure it’s fresh. Here are different ways to buy crab:

Fresh crab meat:

Choose crab meat that has been cooked and prepared on the day of purchase. You can find it at the seafood counter in your local store or market, usually in tubs on ice. Fresh crabmeat should be eaten on the day of purchase and kept refrigerated.

Whole cooked crab:

You can also buy a cooked crab and pick out the meat at home. This requires some skill and patience. Alternatively, you can buy a cooked, dressed crab where the shell has been removed, the inedible parts discarded, and the meat returned to the shell for an attractive presentation. A whole cooked crab should be refrigerated and eaten on the day of purchase.

Frozen crab meat:

Freezing crabmeat is an excellent way to keep it fresh. Look for high-quality frozen crabmeat that has been properly packaged and stored at the correct temperature. Follow the thawing instructions on the package before using it in your recipes.
When preparing crab at home, it’s important to handle it safely to avoid contamination. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw crab.
  • Keep raw crab separate from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cook crab thoroughly to eliminate any potential bacteria or parasites.
  • Follow the cooking instructions and recommended cooking times for the specific type of crab you are using.
  • Ensure that the internal temperature of the crab reaches a safe level to kill any harmful microorganisms.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy crab meat in a variety of delicious recipes, knowing that it has been prepared safely.


In conclusion, raw crab should not be consumed due to the potential presence of harmful microorganisms. It is recommended that crab be cooked thoroughly to eliminate any bacteria or parasites that may be present. The texture and flavor of crab meat also improves significantly when cooked. While imitation crab is commonly used in sushi, fresh and cooked crab meat can be enjoyed in a variety of other dishes. By following proper handling and cooking practices, you can safely enjoy the delicate and flavorful taste of crab.


Is it safe to eat raw shrimp?

No, it is not safe to eat raw crab. Raw crab may contain harmful microorganisms, including bacteria and parasites, that can pose health risks to humans.

What happens when you eat raw crab?

Eating raw crab can cause food poisoning and other illnesses. Raw crab can contain bacteria such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio cholerae, which can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. It may also contain lung flukes, a parasite that can cause lung disease.

Can the crab in sushi rolls be eaten raw?

No, the crab in sushi rolls is usually imitation crab meat, which is cooked and safe to eat. It is usually made from fish that has been flavored and dyed to resemble crab meat.

How should crab be cooked to ensure safety?

Crab should be cooked thoroughly to ensure safety. It is recommended that crab be steamed, boiled, or grilled until the meat is opaque and reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). Cooking crab helps to eliminate harmful bacteria and parasites.

Can you eat cooked crab meat right out of the shell?

Yes, cooked crab meat is safe to eat right out of the shell. Once the crab has been properly cooked, the shell can be removed and the meat can be enjoyed as is or used in various recipes.

Can frozen crab meat be eaten raw?

No, frozen crab meat should not be eaten raw. It is important that frozen crab meat is properly thawed and thoroughly cooked before consumption to ensure food safety.