Reduce Food Poisoning from Seafood

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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