Eat Fish and Shellfish in a Healthy Way
Avoid Foodborne Bacterial Illness (Food Poisoning)
The food supply in the United States is among the safest in the world. However, when certain disease-causing bacteria or pathogens contaminate food, they can cause foodborne illness, often called "food poisoning." Although everyone is susceptible, some people are at greater risk for developing foodborne illness.
If you are pregnant, a young child, an older adult, or someone with a weakened immune system, to avoid food-borne illness from bacteria (often called “food poisoning”) you are advised not to eat:
- Raw fish, partially cooked seafood (such as shrimp and crab), or refrigerated smoked seafood
- Raw shellfish (including oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops) or their juices
Select and Serve Fresh and Frozen Seafood Safely
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed basic food safety tips for buying, preparing, and storing fish and shellfish to help you and your family safely enjoy the fine taste and good nutrition of seafood.
- Food Facts from FDA
- Your Gateway to Food Safety
- CDC 4 Steps to Food Safety
- FDA - Food Safety in Your Kitchen
Eat Healthy Amounts of Fish
Some fish may contain chemicals that could pose health risks if too much of these fish are eaten. Choose and eat fish wisely to avoid eating too much fish that may have chemicals. Contaminants found in fish, such as mercury, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), and Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT), can build up in your body over time and can cause health effects.
To avoid health effects from contaminants that can build up in your body over time, follow:
- The EPA-FDA advice regarding eating fish and shellfish. This advice is for those who might become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding as well as parents and caregivers who are feeding children. It can help people make informed choices about the types of fish that are nutritious and safe to eat.
- Your state/territory/tribe fish advisories for fish caught in their waters - States, territories and tribes provide advice on fish caught in waters in their jurisdiction.
- State Safe Eating Guidelines
- Some states issue both fish consumption advisories and safe eating guidelines.
- Safe eating guidelines let the public know when there are no limits on eating specific fish species. Like the fish consumption advisories, these guidelines are developed based on data from fish that have been tested for chemical contamination. Also, like fish consumption advisories safe eating guidelines are issued for specific fish species from specific water bodies or types of water bodies by state and local agencies.
- Fish advisories help people make informed decisions about where to fish or harvest shellfish when contaminant levels are unsafe. Fish advisories recommend that people limit or avoid eating certain species of fish and shellfish caught in certain places. All 50 states and some U.S. territories and tribes issue advisories to protect people from potential health risks of eating contaminated fish caught in local waters. These guidelines tell people which fish they can eat safely and encourage eating fish and shellfish as part of a healthy diet.
Addressing Shellfish Contamination
Some state health departments test shellfish harvested within their jurisdictions to monitor toxin levels and assess the risk for contamination. Depending on the results of such testing, recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting may be prohibited locally during periods of risk.
State and federal regulatory agencies also monitor reported cases of toxin poisoning to marine life, for example harmful algal blooms (HABs) and health departments investigate possible outbreaks and devise control measures.
EPA is part of the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC), which has Notices of Illness Outbreaks, Shellfish Closures, Reopenings, and Recalls. The ISSC was formed to foster and promote shellfish sanitation through the cooperation of state and federal control agencies, the shellfish industry, and the academic community. The National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) is the federal/state cooperative program recognized by the ISSC for the sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption. The program exercises sanitary control over all phases of growing, harvesting, shucking, packing, and distribution of fresh and fresh-frozen uncooked oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.