Fish and shellfish contain high-quality proteins and other essential nutrients, and a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and aid in children’s proper growth and development. To guard against spoilage and contamination in your own home, only buy fish that is refrigerated or displayed on a thick bed of fresh ice that is not melting (preferably in a case or under some type of cover).
•Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour, or ammonia-like.
•A fish’s eyes should be clear and bulge a little.
•Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from milky slime.
•The flesh should spring back when pressed.
•Fish fillets should display no discoloration, darkening or drying around the edges.
•Shrimp flesh should be translucent and shiny with little or no odor.
•Some refrigerated seafood may have time/temperature indicators on their packaging, which show if the product has been stored at the proper temperature. Always check the indicators when they are present and only buy the seafood if the indicator shows that the product is safe to eat.
Follow these general guidelines for safely selecting shellfish:
•Look for the label: Look for tags on sacks or containers of live shellfish (in the shell) and labels on containers or packages of shucked shellfish. These tags and labels contain specific information about the product, including the processor’s certification number. This means that the shellfish were harvested and processed in accordance with national shellfish safety controls.
•Discard Cracked/Broken Ones: Throw away clams, oysters, and mussels if their shells are cracked or broken.
•Do a “Tap Test”: Live clams, oysters, and mussels will close up when the shell is tapped. If they don’t close when tapped, do not select them.
•Check for Leg Movement: Live crabs and lobsters should show some leg movement. They spoil rapidly after death, so only live crabs and lobsters should be selected and prepared.
Frozen seafood can spoil if the fish thaws during transport and is left at warm temperatures for too long.
•Don’t buy frozen seafood if its package is open, torn, or crushed on the edges.
•Avoid packages that are positioned above the “frost line” or top of the freezer case.
•Avoid packages with signs of frost or ice crystals, which may mean the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen.
Put seafood on ice or in the refrigerator or freezer soon after buying it. If seafood will be used within 2 days after purchase, store it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, wrap it tightly in plastic, foil, or moisture-proof paper and store it in the freezer.
Separate for Safety
When preparing fresh or thawed seafood, it’s important to prevent bacteria from the raw seafood from spreading to ready-to-eat food. Take these steps to avoid cross-contamination:
· 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.
· Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling any raw food.
· Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw foods, such as seafood, and the preparation of cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
· For added protection, kitchen sanitizers can be used on cutting boards and counter tops after use. Or use a solution of one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach to one gallon of water.
· If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after use.
For more information 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332
ALEX … SIDEBAR
HEADLINE: Special Health Notes For Moms and Moms-to-Be
If you are pregnant, nursing your child, or thinking about becoming pregnant, it is important that you avoid consuming too much methylmercury. This substance can be found in certain fish, and it can harm an unborn child’s developing nervous system if eaten regularly.
Don’t Eat . . .
Avoid these four fish species:
However, don’t deny yourself or your unborn baby the nutritional benefits of fish – you can eat 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of other types of cooked fish, as long as you eat a variety of kinds that are lower in mercury. This same advice should be followed when you’re feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions.
Do Eat . . .
Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are:
•Canned light tuna *