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Seafood Safety in the Home

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* By Seafood Consumer Association and FishProf

The World Health Organization (WHO) regards illness due to contaminated food as one of the most widespread health problems in the contemporary world. The Seafood Consumer Association (SCA) agree with the 10 Golden Rules that will help all consumers eliminate them.

For infants, immunocompromised people, pregnant women and the elderly, the consequences can be fatal. Protect your family by following these basic rules. They will reduce the risk of foodborne disease significantly.

WHO data indicate that only a small number of factors related to food handling are responsible for a substantial proportion of foodborne disease episodes everywhere. Common errors include:

✓ Preparation of food several hours prior to consumption, combined with its storage at temperatures which favor growth of pathogenic bacteria and/or formation of toxins.

✓ Insufficient cooking or reheating of food to reduce or eliminate pathogens.

✓ Cross contamination; and

✓ People with poor personal hygiene handling the food.

 

Atlantic salmon
Atlantic salmon

The Seafood Consumer Association (SCA) agree with the 10 Golden Rules that will help all consumers eliminate these errors, all effort to reduce the risk that foodborne pathogens will be able to contaminate, survive or to multiply making your family ill should be taken.

These issues are universal, everyone rich or poor can suffer the consequences so please use these rules as a model for the development of education within your families.

We urge you to adjust to these rules to bring home messages to all your family and friends that unhealthy food preparation habits can impact on everyone’s health and wellbeing – the power to change habitual bad practices is something we should all talk about on World Food Safety Day on 7 June 2024.

Fish tacos
Fish tacos

Here are the 10 Rules – please print them and put them on your refrigerator or a conspicuous place where food preparation is done so they can be seen easily.

1. Hygiene is essential to ensure there is no build-up of anything that provides a good environment for potentially harmful bacteria and other micro-organisms. It is important to keep all work surfaces and utensils clean and to wash hands frequently while preparing seafood. Wash hands thoroughly before you start preparing food and after every interruption – especially if you have to change the baby or have been to the toilet. After preparing raw foods, wash again before you start handling other foods. And if you have an infection on your hand, be sure to bandage or cover it before preparing food. Remember, too, that household pets – dogs, cats, birds, and especially turtles – often harbor dangerous pathogens that can pass from your hands into food.

2. Manage wisely – Always handle seafood carefully, to reduce physical damage. Bruising will cause changes in flavor and texture. Broken and exposed flesh can cause a quickening of bacteria.

 

Fisherman's basket
Fisherman’s basket

3. Keep it separate – Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw and cooked seafood separated. Utensils used for raw seafood should never be used for cooked seafood. Color coded utensils and containers can help prevent cross-contamination. Safely cooked food can become contaminated through even the slightest contact with raw food. This cross-contamination can be direct, as when raw poultry meat comes into contact with cooked foods. It can also be more subtle. For example, do not prepare a raw chicken and then use the same unwashed cutting board and knife to carve the cooked bird. Doing so can reintroduce the disease-causing organisms.

4. Keep it clean – Rinse seafood (except dried or smoked) under cold, running water before preparation (using iced, salted water lessens temperature rise and flavor loss). In addition, the equipment used, any surfaces that come in contact with seafood, and your hands must be appropriately cleaned and sanitized. This removes foreign matter, limits the spread of bacteria, avoids cross-contamination, and maintains the product’s visual appeal. Since foods are so easily contaminated, any surface used for food preparation must be kept absolutely clean. Think of every food scrap, crumb, or spot as a potential reservoir of germs. Cloths that come into contact with dishes and utensils should be changed frequently and boiled before re-use. Separate cloths for cleaning the floors also require frequent washing.

 

Fish burger
Fish burger

5. Keep it cool – Chilled seafood must be stored in a clean, tidy environment between -1°C and +4°C (if not live) and frozen seafood at -18°C or below. This helps control the build-up of bacteria and the harmful action of enzymes – higher temperatures mean shorter shelf life. A common error, responsible for countless cases of foodborne disease, is putting too large a quantity of warm food in the refrigerator. In an overburdened refrigerator, cooked foods cannot cool to the core as quickly as they must. When the center of food remains warm (above 10°C) for too long, microbes thrive, quickly proliferating to disease-causing levels.

6. Keep it covered – Seafood must be covered in cling wrap or wet paper towels to prevent contamination and damage.

7. Keep it moist – Seafood must be kept moist to minimize weight loss and to prevent dehydration, which can adversely affect its appearance, texture, and flavor. Safe water is just as important for food preparation as for drinking. If you have any doubts about the water supply, boil water before adding it to food or making ice for drinks. Be especially careful with any water used to prepare an infant’s meal.

8. Keep it moving – Keep seafood moving by using it as soon as possible; using a good storage rotation system (first in first out); preparing it as soon as it is thawed or removed from the chiller; serving it, or returning it to the refrigerator, as soon as it is prepared. If you must prepare foods in advance or want to keep leftovers, be sure to store them under either hot (near or above 60°C) or cool (near or below 10°C) conditions. This rule is of vital importance if you plan to store foods for more than four or five hours. Foods for infants should preferably not be stored at all. This is your best protection against microbes that may have developed during storage (proper storage slows down microbial growth but does not kill the organisms). Once again, thorough reheating means that all parts of the food must reach at least 70°C.

Crab okonomiyaki
Crab okonomiyaki

9. If using frozen fish/seafood it must be thoroughly thawed before cooking. Thawing frozen fish is best done overnight in the refrigerator as it is the best way to preserve the integrity of the fish. This is also the safest way to thaw frozen fish, since it gradually defrosts in controlled, cool temperatures that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.

10. Animals frequently carry pathogenic microorganisms which cause foodborne disease. Storing foods in closed containers is your best protection. Pets should not be encouraged to enter any food storage or preparation/cooking area.

Here is a Fridge Magnet idea to consider – print or photograph these Quick 10 Rules and laminate for your refrigerator door – educate the family!

Seafood Safety in the Home
Seafood Safety in the Home

This information is brought to you from the SCA for World Food Safety Day.

Please note that whilst an Advisory Board is being established for SCA and it is waiting on some final approvals before it can launch it has reserved the following as communication sites. Come and join us on the journey!

Website – https://seafoodconsumers.global/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/seafoodconsumersassociation

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/seafoodconsumersassociation/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/seafood_consumers_association

X – https://twitter.com/sea_food_global

 

Prawn Caecar salad
Prawn Caecar salad

Regular contributor The Fishmonger has now morphed into FishProf and will continue contributing to AQUACULTURE MAGAZINE but also welcomes all the readers to connect through www.fishprof.com and join in our promotions to increase seafood consumption globally.
References and sources consulted by the author on the elaboration of this article are available under previous request to our editorial staff.

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