7 Food Safety Guidelines Every Raw Seafood Lover Should Keep In Mind

For most folks, eating cold, dead, and raw seafood sounds like a gross and risky thing to do. Not for the diehard fans of sushi and sashimi, fresh oysters, poke, and ceviche.

With a little dash of soy or vinegar, a generous squeeze of lemon, and a blanket of salt, raw seafood can give the palate a burst of flavor that’s incomparable to any cooked food. However, we cannot deny the risks that come with them. Nutritionists warn about the possible health effects of eating raw seafood, especially if not handled properly.

Cooking food kills bacteria and parasites that may cause food-borne illnesses and poisoning – and this is something our favorite raw seafood dishes lack. When your raw fish and shellfish dishes aren’t harvested, stored, and prepared the way they should, you may experience symptoms like severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

If you’re a raw seafood connoisseur, here are 7 food safety tips to keep in mind so you can enjoy your favorite cold and fresh dishes in peace.

  1. Keep seafood ice-cold

To reduce the risk of bacterial and parasitic infections, make sure the fish and shellfish are kept frozen.

  • At the market: If you’re planning to prepare a satisfying raw seafood dish, only buy fish that’s well refrigerated (below 40°F) or properly packed with ice.

  • In your fridge: One of the most effective strategies for killing parasites is freezing fish for 15 hours at -31°F (-35°C) or at -4°F (-20°C) for a week. Keep fresh fish well-wrapped, preferably in air-tight containers. If you don’t freeze it, keep it on the ice and consume within 2 days.

  • During preparation: Freezing doesn’t kill all bacteria, but it helps reduce their number and stops their growth. That said, don’t leave out fish out of your refrigerator for more than 2 hours. Keep in mind that bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature.

  1. Buy from a reliable fishmonger

If you can buy directly from credible fishmonger instead of a crowded supermarket. This will guarantee you a fresh catch. You can also order your fresh seafood fast and easy from a reputable online, interactive seafood market which has access to dependable suppliers in the industry.

  1. Pick the right fish

Attempting to create sushi at home? Keep in mind that some kinds of fish aren’t safe for eating raw and/or sushi style. Some “no-no” fishes include freshwater fish like yellow perch, brook trout, pike. They must be thoroughly cooked.

You better stick to tuna, a top choice. Other safe fishes include salmon, yellowtail, and halibut. Some fishes, like mackerel, seabass, porgies, and snapper are safe to eat when raw given that they’re treated with vinegar prior to serving.

  1. Inspect your seafood

When buying fish, there are visual cues to keep in mind. Fish should have shiny, firm flesh. They shouldn’t have a sour or overly “fishy” odor.

Supermarkets and seafood markets even use the term “sushi-grade” to determine the types of fishes fit for raw consumption and the qualities to look for.

  1. Separate your raw seafood from the rest

When preparing various meals all at the same time and cooking space, make sure to keep the raw and cooked food separate. You should also wash your hands thoroughly and use a separate, clean cutting board, knives, and utensils when preparing. These simple rules will help you avoid cross-contamination.

  1. Avoid entirely if you’re high-risk

It doesn't matter if they're properly frozen or they're bought from a reliable seafood market - for people at high-risk, eating raw or undercooked fish and shellfish may result in life-threatening illnesses.

High-risk folks include those with food allergies, weak immune systems, decreased stomach acidity, pregnant women, infants, and young children, and the elderly.

  1. Dining out? Stick to reputable restaurants

Treat raw seafood as a luxury. When it comes to raw seafood, buying the cheapest sushi out there won’t do you any favor. It’s better to spend more on pricier yet reputable restaurants than risk your health on cheap, low-grade establishments.

Credible restaurants and markets use fresh, top-quality ingredients and comply with the proper food handling safety practices. In Japan, for example, sushi chefs must be licensed. Skilled chefs can detect parasites visible in raw and know the right serving temperature.

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