The Most Common Illnesses From Eating Shrimp

Lake Oconee Boomers

The Most Common Illnesses From Eating Shrimp

Even if you’re not an avowed seafood fan, shrimp seems to be the one we can all agree on. With a subtly salty-sweet flavor and a dense mouthfeel, a good shrimp is hard to beat. And, as anyone who has watched Forrest Gump can tell you, there’s a lot you can do with shrimp. We won’t list everything here.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can go wrong, too. Seafood such as shrimp commonly causes anaphylactic reactions and can harbor harmful pathogens. Before you buy your next platter, you may want to be aware of the most common illnesses from eating shrimp.

Allergic Reaction

Being the muscular little crustaceans that they are, shrimp are very high in protein. However, some of those proteins can trip hypersensitive immune systems. The proteins in shrimp can trigger the immunoglobulin E response, an allergic reaction that causes hives, swelling, and constriction of the airway. In extreme cases, this can cause anaphylactic shock, a severe reaction. Before you cater your next party with shrimp, make sure no one has any shellfish allergies.


Salmonella bacteria have nothing to do with salmon, another delicious marine meal, but seafood can often harbor them. Contaminated water and mishandling in the production process can lead to Salmonella in our shrimp. Because we tend not to cook it to high temperatures that would kill the bacteria, they can linger, where they may cause salmonellosis, or infection by the bacteria. In fact, there was a recent recall of prepared sushi rolls due to Salmonella contamination.


Listeria monocytogenes is a hardy organism. An anaerobic species of bacteria, it doesn’t require oxygen, meaning it can survive in hostile surroundings. Listeria persists in frozen shrimp, where it can cause food poisoning. While listeriosis is mild in most sufferers, it can have serious ramifications for pregnant women, causing birth defects or miscarriages. Shrimp is a food to avoid while pregnant.

E. coli Infection

Perhaps the species most synonymous with food poisoning, the same E. coli bacteria that cause danger in meat and produce can be present in seafood as well, due to cross-contamination in handling practices. The presence of E. coli in shrimp generally indicates fecal contamination in the water, which could result from improper operations in hatcheries or holding tanks.


A Vibrio vulnificus infection, though usually mild, is one of the most common illnesses from eating shrimp. Vibriosis can cause nausea, vomiting, and cramps, and while these generally pass without incident in most people, those who are immunocompromised can suffer much more from this infection. Unlike bacteria that contaminate other seafood, Vibrio lives within shrimp and all other marine crustaceans. Aquaculturists, or shrimp farmers, are taking steps to prevent the presence of Vibrio in their shrimp, but the bacteria may persist in wild varieties.