March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Proper handling of seafood can greatly reduce your risk of food poisoning. Keep the following safety tips in mind when buying, storing and preparing seafood.
- Buy fish from reputable sources such as grocery stores and seafood markets.
- Buy fresh fish only if it is properly refrigerated (below 40°F).
- Check to see that flesh is shiny and firm, not separating from the bone, and odor is fresh and mild, rather than overly "fishy."
- Be aware of possible cross-contamination of cooked and raw seafood if displayed in the same case.
- Make sure packaged seafood is well-packed in ice and packages are tightly sealed and free of tears.
- Avoid packages of frozen seafood containing ice crystals. This is a sign the seafood has previously thawed and been re-frozen.
- Pick up seafood toward the end of your shopping trip and ask to have it bagged separately from other groceries.
- Refrigerate or freeze seafood immediately after purchasing.
- Store fresh, pasteurized or smoked seafood products in a refrigerator set at 40°F. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check the temperature.
- Wrap fresh seafood in cellophane or place in air-tight containers.
- Store live clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, lobsters and crayfish in a refrigerator, in well-ventilated containers and cover with a damp cloth or paper towel.
- Store frozen seafood in a freezer set at or below 0°F until ready to use. Keep it in the original moisture and vapor-proof packages.
- Use packaged, frozen seafood before the expiration date. If an expiration date has passed, don’t consume the product; throw it away.
- Keep raw and cooked seafood separate to avoid cross-contamination.
- Use two separate cutting boards, one for raw seafood and the other for cooked seafood.
- Thoroughly wash your hands, utensils, plates and cutting boards that have touched raw seafood.
- Defrost frozen seafood in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Never defrost seafood on the counter.
- Cook fish to 145°F or until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
- Pregnant women, older people, young children and people with weakened immune systems should not eat raw seafood such as:
- Raw fish (sushi or sashimi).
- Raw shellfish (oysters, clams, scallops, mussels or ceviche).
- Seafood ordered undercooked or "rare" such as tuna carpaccio.
- Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, cod, trout, tuna or mackeral, is usually labeled as "novo-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked" or "jerky."