Seafood in your food establishment
loses the glamour if it contains dangerous pathogenic bacteria
or viruses. Pathogens are causing many foodborne illnesses around
the world creating a major concern in raw or lightly cooked
Seafood product safety guidelines
can vary based on whether the products are harvested from an
aquaculture environment or natural environment. In the case
of aquaculture source, adequate water quality issues are of
paramount concern. Local farm water run-off, feed stock for
the product and pollution sources such as industrial sites,
garbage dumps and disease within the confined environment are
some of the concerns in aquaculture products. In the natural
environment products, one must deal with heavy metals, oils,
local runoffs and industrial wastes. Commercially caught seafood
such as scallops, fish, shrimp, crawfish, lobster, etc. should
be certified by a state or federal regulation agency. It is
recommended that seafood from a commercial supplier be delivered
in a frozen state. Do not accept deliveries of whole fish which
have been transported at room temperature. A whole fish kept
at room temperature is only good for four hours and will not
reach your establishment within that time. A whole fish kept
chilled on ice is generally good for up to four days. Don’t
forget to add the time of catching the product, harvesting travel
time, shipment from a storage facility to your establishment
and refrigerated storage time in your business. Commercially
grown seafood such as shrimp, trout and oysters can also be
delivered frozen to your establishment. Seafood products caught
at sea, processed at sea and "quick frozen" are considered
FRESH! Delivery temperatures are very important. No fresh seafood
should be delivered above 40°F, preferably below 37°F. If it
is delivered frozen, it should be hard frozen.
Ciguatera poisoning can be a cumulative problem with many people.
Ciguatera is caused by eating fish which have eaten algae that
grow on salt water reefs. The algae produces toxin in the fish.
The toxin builds up in humans as it does in the suspect seafood,
often from many meals and sources. Hence the one meal one fish
rule. Also, the bigger the fish, then more likely it is to contain
the toxin. Fish at the top of the food chain, such as barracuda,
coral trout, snapper are more likely to contain the toxin as
they live on smaller fish and crustaceans. All large "high
risk" fish should be screened for toxicity before purchasing.
Check with your fish supplier.
Scromboid fish poisoning has been associated with consumption
of tuna, mahi-mahi and bluefish. It is caused by by-products
(enzymes) produced by bacteria on fish due to fish at improper
The well known bacteria found
in seafood, such as E. Coli 0157:H7, Vibrio, Campylobacter and
Salmonella can be controlled by proper storage, safe refrigeration
temperatures, preventing cross contamination, cooking the fish
to at least 145°F and storing the fish at 140°F or above during
Do not allow seafood packed in
ice to melt unless the seafood is in hermetically sealed packages.
The water (from melted ice) is highly dangerous because it contains
runoffs from fresh products and body fluids draining from the
fresh product along with any bacteria found inside the container.
If you receive exposed products in melted ice, reject the shipment.
Acceptable product should be cooked and not served in a raw
form. Shellfish products are required to provide a tag to maintain
in the establishment for ninety days. Fish that is to be served
in a raw form must be frozen prior to service. Be sure to ask
for freezing records from the supplier and maintain the records
for ninety days. If the fish is frozen on the premises, maintain
records to present to the health officer. The fish must be frozen
throughout to a temperature of –4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days
or –31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours prior to using it for
service as sushi.
Paying close attention
to these issues will ensure that you receive
and serve safe seafood products.
For this and other food safety related
information, please contact the Houston Department of Health
and Human Services, Bureau of Consumer Health Services at 713-794-9200.
the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services