Fish: Warnings and safe handling tips

How to handle and store fish: Whichever type you choose, remember that fish must always be handled with care.

  • Get the fish home and in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible.
  • If you're refrigerating the fish, place it in a baking dish or bowl filled with ice and store it in the coolest spot in the fridge. Fish can keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
  • If you're freezing the fish, wrap it in plastic and place it in the coldest part of the freezer. Fish can last 4 to 6 months in the freezer.
  • When you're ready to use the fish, rinse it under cool, running water and pat it dry.
  • Keep fish apart from other foods, using a separate cutting board and knife. Thoroughly cleanse and rinse any utensils after use.
  • Cook fish to an internal temperature of 70°C (160°F) or until the flesh flakes off with a fork.

Safety warnings: 

Allergies: Seafood is one of the 9 most common food allergens, and people who are allergic to one type of fish are often allergic to other types. Signs of a reaction include hives, red and itchy skin, swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, and throat, trouble breathing, and even loss of consciousness.

PCBs: Polychlorinated biphenyls are environmental contaminants that can find their way into the foods we eat. Concern about levels of PCBs in farmed salmon compelled Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to analyze samples of both farmed and wild salmon. According to their results, neither type of salmon poses a health risk to those who consume them.

Mercury: Almost every type of fish contains mercury, a naturally occurring metal. When consumed in high enough quantities, mercury can impair nervous system functioning.

  • Since the nutritional benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks, Health Canada advises that most people can eat up to 150 g of certain fish per week (fresh/frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, escolar, marlin, orange roughy). Certain age and gender groups are advised to eat even less of those fish:
    • children 1 to 4 years old: no more than 75 g per month
    • children 5 to 11 years old: up to 125 g per month
    • women who are or may become pregnant or who are breast-feeding: up to 150 g per month
  • Recommendations for canned albacore (white) tuna differ:
    • children 1 to 4 years old: no more than 75 g per week (½ can of tuna)
    • children 5 to 11 years old: up to 150 g per week (1 can of tuna)
    • women who are or may become pregnant or who are breast-feeding: up to 300 g per week (2 cans of tuna)
  • Salmon contains very low levels of mercury and carries no special recommendations.

Purines: People with gout or kidney problems should limit or avoid certain fish such as sardines, anchovies, herring, and tuna since they contain a large amount of purines. Purines are organic matter found in all living things, but certain foods we eat have much greater amounts. When broken down, purines can form uric acid, which aggravates these conditions.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: