Safe seafood: Get the health benefits & reduce your risk of getting sick

Consumer Reports warns seafood is more perishable than meat or poultry, so you need to take extra precautions. (Provided by Consumer Reports)

Many of us enjoy seafood, not just for the taste, but also the health benefits. But seafood can spoil quickly, and some raw varieties carry health concerns. To keep your family safe, it’s important to know the dos and don’ts when shopping at the store so you get the benefits while reducing the risk.

The American Heart Association recommends you eat at least two 3-ounce servings of non-fried fish per week. It’s high in protein, often low in saturated fat, and one of the best ways to get large amounts of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

But Consumer Reports warns, seafood is more perishable than meat or poultry, so you need to take extra precautions.

“Cooking seafood to 145° Fahrenheit kills most germs that could be in the food, but when the food is eaten raw, especially when it wasn’t previously frozen, pathogens can be present and make you sick,” said Althea Chang with Consumer Reports For fin fish, the issue is mostly parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms, and intestinal flukes. These parasites can work their way into your intestinal wall and cause nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal pain.

Seafood supplier Chris Perkins also known as the “417 Fish Guy,” has been in the industry for more than 20 years and offers advice on what to look for in your seafood before you buy it.

“You want to look at the eyes. Make sure they’re not overly cloudy. Look at the gills. Make sure they’re flesh-like, like they still have blood in them. Not gray or dark,” he said.

For raw shellfish, check for freshness. Bagged shellfish should have a tag indicating when it was harvested. If shellfish isn’t bagged, the store or the supplier should have that information. Stick with those harvested no more than about a week earlier.

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And don’t forget about food safety even while you’re at the store and on the way home. While shopping, keep seafood separated in your shopping cart and bags. And then, be ready to safely take it home.

“I do recommend having a freezer bag with you. Gel packs or ice in a Ziplock pack. That’s how you transport your product from the store,” Perkins said.

Once home, place seafood in the coldest part of your fridge and eat it as soon as you can. If not, you need to freeze what you don’t use within one to two days.

  • Lean fish keeps for six to eight months in the freezer.
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, keeps for two to three months in the freezer.