Going fishing this Easter? Keep your catch food-safe

Seafood is generally safe and healthy, but each year, Sydney-siders are affected and even hospitalised by illnesses such as bacterial and fish parasite infections, scombroid poisoning, and ciguatera poisoning from their own catch.

Cathy Moir, Chair of the Food Safety Information Council, said that many of these cases could be significantly reduced with knowledge of what to look out for and correct handling methods.

In the lead-up to the Easter break, the Council has released food safety advice to Australia’s estimated 4.2 million recreational fishers and general consumers.

‘Recreational fishing is an important leisure activity for Australians of all ages and backgrounds, but there are a few tips for fishers to follow to ensure their catch doesn’t make them or their families sick,’ Ms Moir said.

Here are 5 tips to help make sure your catch is safe:

  1. Firstly, always be aware of warnings from local authorities about any pollution risks in the waters where you are fishing. This includes chemical contamination, flood water contamination by sewage, algae blooms, or shellfish toxins. We recommend not gathering shellfish or crustaceans but purchasing them instead from reliable retailers as they are a particular risk of contamination.
  2. Chilling fish using ice or an ice slurry as soon as possible after capture, particularly for large predators such as tuna, mackerel, marlin, skipjack and bonito, to prevent bacterial growth and keep caught fish fresh longer.
  3. Two main tips for addressing the impact of parasites are to gut the fish as soon as you catch it and to either freeze or cook the fish to 63oC to kill any parasites.
  4. Care should be taken when eating Oilfish for the first time, and it should be avoided if you are pregnant or have bowel problems.
  5. Fish is great for your health; however, some of the larger fish species, such as Orange Roughy, Catfish, Shark, Marlin and Swordfish, have levels of naturally occurring mercury. Pregnant women or women planning pregnancy and children should only eat 1 portion per week of Orange Roughy (Deep Sea Perch) or Catfish and no other fish that week, or 1 portion per fortnight of Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish/Broadbill and Marlin) and no other fish that fortnight. A portion size for a child 6 years and under is 75g and a portion for a pregnant women or women planning pregnancy is 150 grams. For the rest of the population 1 portion is 150 grams and they should eat only 1 portion per week of Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish/Broadbill and Marlin) and no other fish that week see more information here

‘We also recommend that you don’t gather seaweed from the shore because it can be contaminated by sea creatures, sewage, pollutants, and microplastics. Additionally, the naturally high levels of iodine in some brown seaweed can be particularly harmful to foetuses and the young, so pregnant and breastfeeding women and children should not eat seaweed.

‘Finally, a reminder for those picking up their seafood from a retailer this Easter to always transport your seafood straight home in a cooler with ice and then refrigerate at 5°C or under,’ Ms Moir concluded.

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