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What Happens If You Eat Shrimp That's Not De-Veined?

Does your shrimp have a "vein" in it? Read on to find out if eating this vein is safe.

Ever notice a dark “vein” along the back side of some shrimp you buy at the store, and wonder what this is and if you should eat it? You’re not alone. But when you find out what’s in shrimp “veins,” you may think twice about eating shrimp that’s not deveined.

What Are Shrimp Veins?

A “vein” of a shrimp isn’t really a vein at all, but the shrimp’s ribbon-like digestive tract (also known as a sand vein). And, this vein may be full of partially-digested things the shrimp had previously eaten, or sand the shrimp ingested. Fortunately, while it may take some extra prep time, shrimp veins can be removed during a process called deveining. You can remove shrimp veins by making shallow cuts in the outside of the shrimp’s body (lengthwise) to take out veins with a deveining tool or another type of pointed utensil. Or, you can simply detach the shrimp’s tail, pinch the end of the shrimp, and pull the vein out.

What Happens if You Eat Deveined Shrimp?

You probably won’t get sick from eating shrimp with veins, but the taste of veined shrimp may be slightly grittier in texture compared with shrimp that's been deveined. You likely won’t fall ill from eating fully cooked shrimp sand veins, as any bacteria in them should be destroyed during the cooking process. But, if you don’t like the thought of eating a shrimp’s digestive tract, you may want to steer clear of shrimp that haven’t been deveined.

Should I Devein Shrimp?

Deveining shrimp yourself can be a tedious task. Some shrimp you can purchase already come deveined. But if you’re eating small or medium-sized shrimp and deveining takes up too much of your time, skipping this step shouldn't be a problem. When preparing and serving larger shrimp, deveining might be more important since these large dark veins can make shrimp look less attractive. And, you may notice more of a difference in taste and texture in large veined shrimp compared with deveined shrimp of the same size.

Can I Get Sick from Shrimp?

Chances are you won’t get sick from shrimp (whether or not it’s deveined) unless it’s undercooked. Only buy shrimp that’s been refrigerated, hasn't passed expiration, doesn’t have an odor, and looks shiny and translucent. When cooking shrimp to make sure it's safe to eat, the internal temperature should get up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit — and the flesh of the shrimp should look opaque and pearly, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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