Your Seafood Safe?
is right for seafood: when the weather is hot, what could be
better than a chilled seafood cocktail or oysters on the half
shell? But before you serve or eat any type of seafood -- raw
or cooked -- make sure that it's safe to eat.
in the United States has risen 25 percent since 1985, mostly
due to the fact that in today's health-conscious society, seafood
is a low-fat, low-cholesterol source of protein. At the same
time, foodborne illnesses resulting directly from seafood have
risen alarmingly. It is important to know the hazards and safety
tips of preparing and serving all types of seafood.
Eating raw seafood,
including sushi and certain types of shellfish, is one of the
leading causes of foodborne illnesses. Worms and parasites can
be found in fish such as mackerel, haddock, herring, cod and
Pacific salmon. Sushi in particular can be hazardous if it is
not prepared properly by trained chefs who are able to detect
worms in fish slivers.
one of the greatest health risks due to the vibrio pathogens
found in some types of oysters, clams and mussels. If eaten
raw or partially cooked, shellfish carrying undetected pathogens
can cause hepatitis-A. There is no way to remove vibrio from
raw shellfish (including the myth of dipping raw oysters in
hot sauce to kill bacteria).
The vibrio bacteria
can also cause a cholera-type illness called "vibrio-cholerae,"
which is especially dangerous to persons with any type of immune-deficiency
condition. Caution should be exercised serving any type of raw
or cooked shellfish to the elderly, children, pregnant women
or persons with immune system disorders.
Most people think
that eating cooked seafood will carry less of a health risk
than raw seafood; this assumption is erroneous. Certain types
of ocean fish carry ciguatoxin, a poison found in reefs and
algae that is ingested by the fish. If the fish are not kept
properly frozen, the toxin will remain in the fish and cannot
be killed by any means of cooking.
lead to scombroid poisoning, which attacks the gastrointestinal
tract and takes on symptoms similar to a flu virus -- yet it
is much more difficult to treat. Some of the types of fish known
to carry ciguatoxin include snapper, grouper, barracuda, mahi-mahi
is especially risky in terms of foodborne illnesses. The trendy
"pan-seared" fish is a potential source of parasites. Searing
cooks the outside, but sometimes leaves the inside of the fish
virtually raw, leaving pathogens unaffected.
food item is "ceviche", which is South American raw seafood
served in a lime juice. A common misconception is that the acidity
in the lime juice rids the fish of bacteria. Untrue, according
to parasitologists. The lime juice will not kill any type of
parasites in fish; if at most, the juice will make the worms
How do you make
sure that the seafood will not produce any foodborne illness?
Follow these cooking tips for best results:
Heat to 450 degrees
for each inch of thickness for 10-13 minutes. The meat should
flake with a fork when done.
(Make sure the
internal temperature is at least 140 degrees when fully cooked.)
Boiling -- Discard
shellfish that do not open during cooking.
Steaming -- Cook
in small pots to ensure even cooking.
Baking -- Bake
at 450 degrees for at least 10 minutes.
Frying -- Fry
in oil at 375 degrees for at least 10 minutes.
For food safety,
make sure that you purchase your fish and shellfish from approved
sources. It is recommended to keep fresh seafood below 35 degrees
Fahrenheit. Frozen seafood should be stored at zero (0) degrees
Above all else,
don't forget the wise words of the Old Man
of the Sea: "Keep it cold, keep it hot, keep it clean and keep
it moving until it hits the pan."
this and any other food safety related
information, please contact the Houston Department of Health
and Human Services at 713/794-9200.
the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services