Keeping Your Seafood Safe

Reviewed by Sarah Klemm, RD, CD
keeping your seafood safe

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Consumers are becoming more concerned about ensuring the seafood they buy and eat is safe. Below are tips to help reduce your risk of food poisoning the next time you make a trip to the fish market.

Buying Seafood

Fresh

  • Purchase seafood from reputable sources (i.e. supermarket, seafood market, etc.).
  • Check to make sure the flesh is shiny and firm and not separating from the bone. Over time the color fades from light pink, to gray, to a greenish or dull brown. The odor should be fresh and mild. It should not smell overly "fishy."
  • Make sure fresh seafood is properly refrigerated below 40°F. Check to make sure packaged seafood is well-packed in ice.
  • Don't purchase unwrapped, cooked seafood, such as shrimp, crabs or smoked fish, if it is displayed in the same case as raw fish. Cross-contamination may have occurred.

Frozen

  • Seafood frozen at or below 0° F should stay safe indefinitely, however, quality declines after the expiration date.
  • Avoid seafood with ice crystals. This indicates that the product has been thawed and refrozen.
  • Check for tightly sealed packages that are free of dents and tears.

Storing Seafood

Fresh

  • Refrigerate seafood immediately after buying and store at or below 40°F. Wrap fresh seafood in cellophane or air-tight containers. Use fresh seafood within two days of purchase or store it in freezer.
  • Store live clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, lobsters and crayfish in well ventilated containers and cover with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Frozen

  • Store frozen seafood immediately at 0°F or below until ready to use. Keep it in the original moisture-proof packages.

Preparing Seafood

Fresh

  • Separate raw and cooked seafood to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Wash hands, utensils, plates and cutting boards thoroughly between handling raw seafood and cooked seafood, produce or other ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook seafood to 145°F or until the fish becomes opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Shellfish such as clams, mussels and oysters should open their shells as they cook. Discard any shells that do not open during cooking.
  • To prevent foodborne illness, pregnant women, older adults, 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) and seafood ordered undercooked or "rare" such as tuna carpaccio. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, cod, trout, tuna or mackerel, which are usually labeled as "novo-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked" or "jerky" should also be avoided.

Frozen

  • Prepare frozen seafood according to package directions. Defrost frozen seafood in the refrigerator overnight. Seafood can also be thawed quickly in a sealed bag immersed in cold water, or if cooked right away by using a microwave's defrost setting. Do not thaw seafood on the kitchen counter.
  • Follow the same preparation techniques with frozen seafood as for raw.

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