Undercooked or mishandled seafood is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in Australia.
Eating warm water fish that has a chef has not properly prepared can cause ciguatera poisoning, including headaches, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Plus, eating seafood that has faced inadequate storage can cause scombroid poisoning, including nausea, vomiting, fever, itchiness, and diarrhoea.
So, it is vital that chefs and cooks learn how to store, handle and cook fish properly to prevent customers from falling ill. Because despite the obvious discomfort this will do to your customers. Nothing ruins the reputation of a restaurant, café or brasserie than an outbreak of food poisoning.
In this blog, we will cover some basic seafood storage and preparation tips to help reduce the risk of food poisoning in your kitchen. But remember, this is far from a comprehensive list; anyone handling fish as part of their daily activities should enroll in a professional food handling safety course.
Handle seafood properly
You should always handle seafood carefully to prevent bruising and the breakup of flesh. Broken flesh provides the ideal conditions for bacteria to grow. So, when handling seafood, treat it gently and always use a sharp knife.
You should also ensure that you wipe down any area used to prepare seafood both before and after. This practice will reduce the risk of cross-contamination from other foods used in the kitchen. And it would be best practice if you always wash your hands before handling different types of food.
Keep seafood separate
You should always store seafood separately from other types of food in the kitchen. Never place seafood in the same environment as red meats such as beef, pork or lamb. Store seafood in a separate container and ensure it has a clear marking with a label.
The utensils used to prepare raw seafood should also be kept separate from other utensils used in the kitchen. This aspect includes the utensils used to prepare cooked seafood. Keep raw seafood utensils in a separate container and colour code them to prevent misuse.
Cleanliness is important
Cleanliness is always important in the kitchen, but it is paramount when handling seafood. You should always clean the area for seafood preparation before you start and after you finish. Use a clean, damp microfibre cloth with detergent to destroy bacteria.
You should also ensure that fresh fish or shellfish is kept as clean as possible during preparation. All seafood, except smoked or dried fish, should be rinsed under a cold tap before preparation. This process helps to keep the flesh moist and removes bacteria.
Always store seafood in sealed containers
You should always store seafood separately from other types of food, but you should also store the different seafood types separately from each other. The best way to do this is to create colour coded containers for shellfish, cooked fish, smoked fish and raw fish.
These containers should also be sealed when placed in the refrigerator or freezer. Never leave opened seafood containers in close contact with other types of food, especially red meat and chicken as this will greatly increase the risk of cross-contamination.
Store your seafood at the right temperature
The coldest part of the refrigerator is the best place to store your seafood. The higher the temperature, the sooner the fish will deteriorate. Ideally, you need to store seafood at 5ºc or lower; check the temperature in your fridge with a thermometer just to be sure.
Any seafood which was supplied frozen should stay frozen until it is ready for use. You should also allow plenty of time for frozen seafood to thaw before preparation. Ideally, you should leave frozen seafood to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Use as soon as possible
When storing seafood, you should also use the First-in, First-out (FIFO) method. You can store different kinds of seafood for varying amounts of time. But as a rule of thumb, fresh fish should be used within 2-days.
You can increase the length of time seafood can be stored by ensuring you only order the freshest fish available. You should also ensure that you never order more seafood than you can comfortably handle.
Resources for safe food handling
If you handle seafood as part of your daily activities, you should consider completing a food safety course. These courses will ensure your staff have the appropriate training to handle and prepare all types of food, including seafood.
At the Australian Institute of Accreditation, we provide a comprehensive range of quality food safety courses for the retail and hospitality industries. Courses include Food Handling Certificate (Level 1 &2) and Food Safety Supervisor (Retail & Hospitality).
If you would like more information about any of these courses, get in touch today by completing the contact form here.