· 6 min read
These days it seems everyone is seeking a healthy diet. That’s where salmon, shellfish and other seafood come in because they contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish may even contribute to heart health and boost children’s proper growth and development. Health enthusiasts also claim that fish combined with a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy can promote bone health, help you maintain a healthy weight, and decrease the risk of colon and rectal cancers.
But as good for you as it may be, fresh seafood does not come without risks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is responsible for making certain that the nation’s seafood supply, both domestic and imported, is safe, sanitary, wholesome and honestly labeled.
In response to the growing demand for labeling, food businesses ranging from grocery stores to quick-service restaurants have begun mandating that companies hold sustainable seafood certifications. With a mission to improve human and planet health, NSF experts work closely with the FDA to certify and measure seafood producers against globally recognized industry standards to ensure that their seafood is sustainable and healthy. Our experts are also a go-to resource for staying up to date with new requirements.
“We are here to help grocery stores, restaurants and seafood distributors provide a higher level of expertise and knowledge to their seafood buyers, fishmongers or seafood inspectors,” said Tom White, Manager, Supply Chain Food Safety - Seafood Operations, for NSF.
NSF certifications help ensure that:
For consumers, NSF offers safe handling tips for buying, preparing and storing fish and shellfish, so that families can enjoy the great taste and nutritional benefits of seafood.
Only buy fish that is refrigerated or displayed on a thick bed of fresh ice (preferably in a case or under some type of cover).
Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like. Caveat: Some fish, such as mackerel or sardines, have a strong, oily smell even when they are fresh. It also depends on size — whether it’s a whole fish or fillets or portions. For a whole fish, you look at three indicators: eyes, gills and skin elasticity. Shrimp is far different from finfish, and white fish is much different from salmon. A sour or ammonia-like odor may signal that fish are already decomposing, but it’s the marginal cases that consumers need to be the most cautious of. Smells like yogurt, cheese, dirty socks, and the fresh scent of pine or cherry (used to mask bad fish) are also important to note, as they can indicate, “Don’t buy.”
Some refrigerated seafood may have time and temperature labels on its packaging, showing if the product has been stored properly. Always check these labels when they are present, and only buy seafood that is not outdated.
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.
Frozen seafood can spoil if the fish thaws during transport and is left at warm temperatures for too long before cooking. Keep this in mind:
When preparing fresh or thawed seafood, it’s important to prevent bacteria from raw seafood from spreading to ready-to-eat foods. Take these steps to avoid cross-contamination:
Unless the package tells you to cook the fish from frozen, it should be thawed gradually by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. If you must thaw seafood quickly, either seal it in a plastic bag and immerse it in cold water or — if the food will be cooked immediately afterward — microwave it on the “defrost” setting and stop the defrost cycle while the fish is still icy but flexible.
Most seafood should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (62°C). If you don’t have a food thermometer, there are other ways to determine whether seafood is ready to eat.
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