Fish and shellfish contain high quality protein and other essential nutrients and are an important part of a healthful diet. In fact, 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. As with any type of food, however, it is important to handle seafood safely in order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning.” Follow these basic food safety tips for buying, preparing, and storing fish and shellfish — and you and your family can safely enjoy the fine taste and good nutrition of seafood.
Special Health Notes
Keep in mind that some people are at greater risk for foodborne illness, and should not eat raw or partially cooked fish or shellfish. These susceptible groups include:
- Pregnant women
- Young children
- Older adults
- Persons whose immune systems are compromised
- Persons who have decreased stomach acidity
If you are unsure of your risk, ask your healthcare provider.
Smoked Seafood: Avoiding Listeriosis
Pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems have an increased chance of getting a foodborne illness called listeriosis. If you are in one of these groups, there is a simple step you can take to reduce your chance of contracting the listeriosis disease from seafood:
- Avoid refrigerated types of smoked seafood except in a cooked recipe, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel, is usually labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky” and can be found in the refrigerated section of grocery stores and delicatessens. They should be avoided.
- You needn’t worry about getting listeriosis from canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood.
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:
- King mackerel
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 *
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