How to Reduce Food Poisoning from Seafood

Reviewed by Sarah Klemm, RD, CD
How to Reduce Food Poisoning from Seafood

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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.

Buying

  • Buy fish from reputable sources such as grocery stores and seafood markets.
  • Purchase fresh fish only if it is properly refrigerated (below 40°F) or displayed on a thick bed of frozen ice.
  • 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.

Storing

  • Refrigerate or freeze seafood immediately after purchasing by wrapping it in cellophane or placing in an air-tight containers.
  • Store fresh, pasteurized or smoked seafood products in a refrigerator set at or below 40°F. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check the temperature.
  • 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. Place container in a second bowl filled with ice and store on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
  • Use fresh seafood within two days after purchase or wrap up tightly and freeze.
  • 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.

Preparing

  • 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.

Cooking

  • Cook fish to 145°F or until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
  • If cooking live mussels, clams or oysters, discard any shells that do not open during cooking.
  • Pregnant individuals, older people, young children and people with weakened immune systems should avoid raw seafood such as:
    • 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 mackerel, these are usually labeled as "novo-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked" or "jerky."

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