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SEAFOOD SAFETY

BUYING FRESH SEAFOOD
When buying fresh seafood, buy only from reputable dealers who keep their products refrigerated or properly iced. Be wary, for example, of vendors selling fish out of their creel (canvas bag) or out of the back of their truck.

Once you buy the seafood, immediately put it on ice, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer.

Some other tips for choosing safe seafood:

  • Don't buy cooked seafood, such as shrimp, crabs or smoked fish, if displayed in the same case as raw fish. Cross-contamination can occur. Or, at least, make sure the raw fish is on a level lower than the cooked fish so that the raw fish juices don't flow onto the cooked items and contaminate them. 
     
  • Don't buy frozen seafood if the packages are open, torn or crushed on the edges. Avoid packages that are above the frost line in the store's freezer. If the package cover is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. This could mean that the fish has either been stored for a long time or thawed and refrozen. 
     
  • Recreational fishers who plan to eat their catch should follow state and local government advisories about fishing areas and eating fish from certain areas.
     
  • As with meat and poultry, if seafood will be used within two days after purchase, store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator, usually under the freezer compartment or in a special "meat keeper." Avoid packing it in tightly with other items; allow air to circulate freely around the package. Otherwise, wrap the food tightly in moisture-proof freezer paper or foil to protect it from air leaks and store in the freezer. 
     
  • Discard shellfish, such as lobsters, crabs, oysters, clams, and mussels, if they die during storage or if their shells crack or break. Live shellfish close up when the shell is tapped.


RAW SEAFOOD
If you are under treatment for HIV, diabetes, cancer or liver disease, as well as several others, you should avoid raw seafood.

People with certain diseases and conditions need to be especially careful because their diseases or the medicines they take may put them at risk for serious illness or death from contaminated seafood.

These conditions include:

  • liver disease, either from excessive alcohol use, viral hepatitis, or other causes
     
  • hemochromatosis, an iron disorder 
     
  • diabetes
     
  • stomach problems, including previous stomach surgery and low stomach acid (for example, from antacid use)
     
  • cancer
     
  • immune disorders, including HIV infection 
     
  • long-term steroid use, as for asthma and arthritis. 

Older adults also may be at increased risk because they more often have these conditions.

People with these diseases or conditions should never eat raw seafood--only seafood that has been thoroughly cooked.


COOKING SEAFOOD
Seafood should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 F (63 C). Fish that's ground or flaked, such as a fish cake, should be cooked to at least 155 F (68 C), and stuffed fish to at least 165 F (74 C).

If you don't have a meat thermometer, there are other ways to determine whether seafood is done:

  • For fish, slip the point of a sharp knife into the flesh and pull aside. The edges should be opaque and the center slightly translucent with flakes beginning to separate. Let the fish stand three to four minutes to finish cooking.
     
  • For shrimp, lobster and scallops, check color. Shrimp and lobster turn red and the flesh becomes pearly opaque. Scallops turn milky white or opaque and firm.
     
  • For clams, mussels and oysters, watch for the point at which their shells open. Boil three to five minutes longer. Throw out those that stay closed.
     
  • When using the microwave, rotate the dish several times to ensure even cooking. Follow recommended standing times. After the standing time is completed, check the seafood in several spots with a meat thermometer to be sure the product has reached the proper temperature

(Compiled from the FDA Consumer  - latest revision, July 2002)

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