Seviche Safety

How to handle raw seafood with appropriate care and caution.

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Tuna Seviche

Ralph Anderson

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Acidic juices used to marinate the ingredients do not cook seafood but thicken the texture so it appears cooked. This technique helps preserve fish, but it does not kill bacteria and parasites. People with compromised immune systems, the elderly, and young children are especially at risk when exposed to such bacteria. The following tips will keep your favorite seafood safe from the market to the table.

Purchase fish from reputable supermarkets, seafood markets, and other sources. In the market, raw seafood should never be displayed with ready-to-eat products and should be packed in ice at close to 32 degrees. Make sure the flesh is shiny and firm, and eyes, if any, are clear. Seafood should smell fresh, never "fishy" or pungent.

Store seafood at close to 32 degrees to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses. Wrap fresh fish in cellophane or air-tight containers. Keep live clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, lobsters, and crayfish in well-ventilated containers and covered with a damp cloth. Wash just before preparing the seviche, since fresh water will shorten shellfish's life. Shellfish, such as clams and mussels, should have whole shells that are closed tightly.

In home fridges, as in the market, all raw seafood must be kept away from ready-to-eat foods. Thaw frozen seafood overnight in the refrigerator to inhibit rapid bacteria growth. Always wash hands, utensils, and cutting boards after seafood contact. To prevent cross-contamination, never use the same surface for seafood and other ingredients during preparation.

Many chefs recommend blanching or parboiling shellfish for seviche. This reduces the risk of bacterial growth and enhances shellfish texture.

To learn more, visit www.homefoodsafety.org.

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