Great Adventures in Food

Safe Seafood

The key to seafood safety is knowing how to choose fresh seafood as well as how to safely prepare and store it. Once you've made your pick, showcase your catch in one of our mouth-watering recipes.

As word has spread about the health benefits of fish, its popularity has grown. It's an excellent source of protein and has less cholesterol than lean red meats. Today's fish and shellfish come to American markets from all around the world. Ask the person behind the counter for more information about its source and freshness, and for cooking tips.

What to Look For
There is no mandatory inspection program for seafood, so be sure to purchase fish and shellfish from dealers you trust. Also be especially careful in the way you handle seafood at home. When buying fresh cuts, look for moist fish with no fishy odor, bruises, or odd-colored spots. Choose leaner types of fish such as flounder, perch, and grouper. They not only have less fat, but are less likely to have pesticide residues stored in the fatty portions of the fish. Oysters, clams, and mussels are very sensitive to bacterial contamination, so make sure they are purchased live. But that does not guarantee contaminant-free fish. The shrimp in the refrigerated case may be fresh or previously frozen. Ask at the fish counter. It is usually fresher if it is still in its shell.

Where to Watch Out
Be aware of fish from waters near major industrial sites because they may be contaminated. Buy only what you need, because fish deteriorates quickly when it contains harmful bacteria. The frozen packages of already cooked breaded fish are full of calories and fat. Be alert to the packages that call for frying the fish; it is just as easy to broil it.

Knowing what kind of fish to buy is only the first step in preparing a delicious and safe seafood meal. The following tips will help insure that the fish you bring home will be worth the effort.

Safe Sea Catches
Make the most of today's market of nutritious seafood choices by being alert to possible risks and shopping wisely for good fresh fish. Potential hazards from contaminated fish are serious because seafood can carry bacteria, viruses, toxins, and parasites that are harmful to human health. Careful shopping can make a big difference in the quality and safety of the fish you buy.

"Seafood's shelf life is like nothing else," says chef Allen Susser. "The most important thing is to know your purveyor—really get to know the person behind the counter. He knows where it starts."

For the best sea catches, follow these tips:

  • Check out the store or counter: It should be bright and clean, and fish should be displayed on ice or stored in the refrigerator.
  • Check out the fish: It should have a fresh, clean smell, not a strong fishy smell. It should have slick skin, flexible fins, and reddish-colored gills with no brownish tones. The eyes should be very clear and bulging.
  • Ask where the fish comes from and when it came into the store. Avoid fish that is more than three days old.
  • Live shellfish, like lobster and crab, should have signs of movement when touched.

Safe Ways with Fish
Safely storing and handling seafood is a basic family health protection. Keeping it fresh means it tastes better, too. If you can, cook it on the same day that you buy it. In any event, do not store for more than a few days. Here are simple ways to stay safe with seafood:

  • Store seafood in a well-chilled refrigerator, between 32° and 40° F. All raw seafood contains some bacteria that can multiply quickly in temperatures above 40° F.
  • Place the seafood in a container, or keep it in its store wrapping and then place it in a pan or bowl of ice so that it is chilled really well.
  • Before cooking, rinse the fish with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.

You've carefully chosen your fresh seafood and now you're ready to try one of FoodFit's fantastic preparations:

Allen Susser's Pan-Roasted Red Snapper with Orange and Mango Salsa
Broiled Salmon with Sizzle of Corn and Tomatoes
Shrimp Stir-Fry with Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, and Broccoli
Sautéed Sea Bass with Mushroom Ragout


Sign up for FoodFit's FREE newsletters

Get healthy recipes, nutrition information and fitness tips!

privacy policy Submit


FoodFit is a part of HealthCentral
© 1999- The HealthCentral Network, Inc., Copyright All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy and Terms of Use