Enjoying Seafood Safely During LentThursday, February 27, 2020
Lent, for some, traditionally the time for the observation and celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This period begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes six weeks later on Easter Sunday. Many use this time to abstain from something, usually meat, and consume fish or shellfish on the days leading up to Easter Sunday. If you intend on making these items your staple for the next few weeks here are a few things to consider when buying, storing and preparing to ensure safe consumption and ultimately reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.
Pay attention when buying
• Only purchase your seafood from a reputable supplier or fishing village that you have previously purchased seafood from without any issues.
• Make sure your fish/shellfish is refrigerated or on fresh ice in a covered insulated container.
• It's OK to smell your seafood. Fresh seafood should smell “fresh” not overly “fishy”, sour or like ammonia.
• A clear indication of fresh fish is when the eyes are clear and shiny.
• If you're purchasing whole fish, have your attendant (with visibly clean hands) check to ensure it has firm flesh and red gills with no odour. Fresh fillets must also have firm flesh and red bloodlines or, in the case of fresh tuna, red flesh.
• Fillets should not be discoloured.
• If you intend on purchasing shrimp, scallops, or lobster, ensure the flesh is clear with a pearl-like colour and little or no odour.
• If you have allergies to shellfish, please ensure your fish is not stored in the same container. If you are uncertain about where your fish has been, do not purchase.
• Frozen fish may not have all the characteristics of fresh fish (eg, bright eyes, firm flesh, red gills, flesh, or bloodlines); however, they should smell fresh and not rancid/sour.
• Do not purchase frozen seafood if the package is open/torn.
• When buying unpackaged cooked seafood, make sure it is physically separated from raw seafood. It should be in its own display case or separated from raw product by dividers.
• Try to avoid packages with signs of frost or ice crystals, which may mean the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen.
• Throw away clams, oysters, and mussels if their shells are cracked or broken. Live clams, oysters, and mussels will close when the shell is tapped. If they don't close when tapped, do not select them.
• Get your seafood home within two hours of purchase to be safe. Frozen seafood can spoil if the fish thaws during transport and is left at warm temperatures for too long before cooking.
• Put your seafood on ice or in the refrigerator or freezer soon after buying it (you probably can walk with a small igloo with ice when purchasing seafood).
• Store seafood in a clean refrigerator separate from ready-to-eat frozen foods at a temperature of 40°F or below.
• If you have individuals in your household with allergies, separate!
• Do not thaw your frozen seafood outside of the refrigerator unless it is in a sealed container immersed in cold water. It is advisable to thaw frozen seafood gradually by placing it in the refrigerator overnight.
• When preparing fresh or thawed seafood, it's important to separate from ready-to-eat foods as this prevents bacteria from spreading to ready-to-eat foods.
• Remember to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after handling any raw food.
• Wash and sanitise cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with soap and warm water between the preparation of raw foods, such as seafood, and the preparation of cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
• Most seafood should be cooked to an internal temperature of 62.7°C/145°F. Use a food thermometer. Or look for the following:
- Fish: The flesh is clear and separates easily with a fork.
- Shrimp, scallops, crab, and lobster: The flesh becomes firm and clear.
- Clams, mussels, and oysters: The shells open during cooking — you must discard the shells that do not open.
• If your seafood smells sour or rancid, raw or cooked, do not eat it.
• Keep cold chilled seafood refrigerated and hot seafood heated until time to serve.