A man who was shopping at a Costco in New Rochelle, New York, was horrified when he saw a live worm wriggling on a package of fresh wild sockeye salmon.
Jack Sanchez was in the check-out line at the store when he noticed something on the fish being purchased by the woman in front of him, he told KTLA sister station WPIX in New York City on Monday. Upon closer inspection, he discovered it was a live worm.
His reaction: “That’s disgusting."
He pointed it out to the woman, who then asked to speak with the store manager.
According to Sanchez, the manager told them, “It was pretty normal that salmon had a worm or parasite.”
Sanchez said he expected the manager to remove all the salmon from the refrigerator cases, but that didn’t happen. The manager took the package of salmon away, but not before Sanchez filmed video of the worm with his cellphone.
A different manager at the store told the station it does not have a worm problem in its fish.
This isn't the first time that a worm or parasite has been found on seafood sold at Costco.
Two years ago, Japanese tapeworms were found on salmon at multiple Costco stores in San Diego. In one instance, a woman said she found three live worms on salmon purchased at the Chula Vista location.
In 2015, San Joaquin County public health officials investigated a report of parasites being found in a package of fish at a Costco in Manteca.
WPIX also searched the internet and found entire pages of posts from Costco customers across the country complaining about finding worms in salmon purchased at various stores. Most included pictures of the parasites moving around on the raw fish.
The issue of live worms in packages of store-bought fish is hardly unique to Costco, however.
According to Prof. Don Schaffner at the Rutgers Center for Advanced Food Technology, there are many types of worms and other parasites that can be present in both wild and farm-raised salmon. They do pose a potential health risk.
Consuming raw or undercooked fish containing live parasites my cause cramping, nausea, diarrhea and weight loss. Less common are serious reactions, including intestinal blockage and inflammation of the bile ducts.
“In a really bad infection, you might die," Schaffner told WPIX. "A lot depends on how big a dose of parasites and also how healthy in your immune system."
Schaffner said consumers are taking a risk by eating salmon sushi, cold smoked salmon and salmon ceviche if they are made with raw, fresh fish.
The good news is that you can reduce the health risk from parasites to almost zero by properly heating or freezing the fish.
The coldest part of the fish has to be cooked to a temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the parasites. Schaffner advises using a thermometer at home and insisting the restaurant do the same when ordering salmon.
As for freezing, fish needs to be frozen for at least seven days at a temperature of -4 degrees Fahrenheit to kill parasites, according to the FDA.
Schaffner says to ask if the sushi, cold smoked salmon or ceviche are made from frozen fish. If so, he says you can eat it with confidence.
WPIX has reached out to Costco’s corporate spokesman at the company’s headquarters in Seattle, asking what type of quality control is used to deal with the potential of worms in the seafood it sells.
As of Tuesday morning, the station had not received a reply.