How to Select and Serve Fresh and Frozen Seafood


Shellfish and fish are rich in essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, making them a vital part of any healthy diet. A well-balanced diet of fish and shellfish supports heart health and aids in the proper growth and development of children.

Understanding safe handling guidelines for buying, preparing, and storing seafood, especially frozen seafood, is crucial. This reduces the risk of food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses.

Buy Right: Shrimp and Fresh Fish

When purchasing fish, always opt for those refrigerated or displayed on thick beds of fresh ice, preferably in a display case or covered. Don’t rely solely on color as an indicator of freshness, as it can be affected by various factors, including diet, environment, and treatments like carbon monoxide. Here are some tips for making informed decisions:

  • The fish should not have a sour or ammonia-like smell.
  • Look for shiny, clear eyes in fish.
  • The flesh of the whole fish should be firm, have red gills, and have no odor.
  • Fresh fillets must have firm flesh with red bloodlines, or red flesh in the case of fresh tuna.
  • The edges of fish fillets shouldn’t be darkened or dried.
  • Lobster, shrimp, and scallops should have transparent flesh with a pearly color and little to no odor.

For packaged refrigerated fish, check indicators showing the storage temperature and time. Only purchase seafood deemed safe for consumption.

Shellfish Selection

Use these guidelines to select shellfish safely:

  • Check labels or tags on shellfish packaging for certification numbers, indicating adherence to national shellfish safety standards.
  • Discard any clams or mussels with cracked shells.
  • Perform a “Tap test” on clams, mussels, and oysters.
  • Check for leg movement in live lobsters and crabs.

Frozen Seafood

Frozen fish can spoil if left in warm temperatures too long after cooking. Avoid buying frozen seafood with damaged packaging or signs of frost, indicating prolonged storage or refreezing. The flesh should be firm and not bendable.

Proper Storage

After purchasing seafood, store it on ice in your refrigerator or freezer. If using within two days, keep it below 40°F. Wrap tightly in foil, plastic, or moisture-proof papers for freezer storage.

Preventing Cross-Contamination

It’s crucial to avoid cross-contamination:

  • Separate cooked fish from raw seafood.
  • Wash hands, cutting boards, dishes, and utensils thoroughly after handling raw seafood.
  • Use kitchen sanitizers for added protection.

Picnic Ideas

Clean your cooler thoroughly before packing cooked seafood. Keep chilled seafood with ice or cold packs in a shaded cooler.

Safe Preparation and Serving

  • Thaw frozen fish slowly in the fridge or quickly under cold, running water.
  • Cook seafood until the internal temperature reaches 145°F.
  • Never leave perishable foods out of the fridge for more than 2 hours in temperatures above 90°F.
  • Serve hot seafood under a heat source and cold seafood on ice.

Eating Raw Seafood

While thoroughly cooking seafood is safest, if opting for raw, choose previously frozen fish to minimize the risk of parasites. Note that freezing doesn’t kill all harmful bacteria.

Special Health Notes for At-Risk Groups

Certain groups, including pregnant women, children, adults over 60, and those with weakened immune systems, should exercise extra caution. Avoid certain types of sushi, ceviche, and smoked fish that are not fully cooked.


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