Seafood Can Cause an Upset Stomach (or Worse): A Guide for Food Handlers

A Platter of SeafoodThe mere thought of smoked salmon salad, barbecued spice-crusted tuna, lobster rolls or fish and chips might make one’s mouth water. They look good and taste even better, but while taking a food handling course, you will realise that preparing the dishes takes an extra amount of effort. You have to get rid of the stench and, more importantly, prevent food poisoning.

Take note of these ways seafood can turn out wrong; it will help you avoid instances of food poisoning at work.

The Consumption of Ciguatera Poison

Small, plant-eating fish from warm water reefs may consume toxic algae and carry ciguatera poison. When larger warm water fish such as the Spanish mackerel eat the smaller ones, the toxin accumulates and may cause food poisoning.

Unfortunately, ciguatera poison is not easily detectable; it does not affect the physical appearance, odour and taste of the large warm water fish you prepare. Cooking or freezing the fish does not get rid of the toxin in it either. One precaution would be to avoid putting together fillets from different species before food preparation.

The Ingestion of Toxins by Shellfish

Another way seafood causes an upset stomach is through shellfish poisoning.

Shellfish may ingest sea organisms that produce a type of toxin that causes different types of poisoning: paralytic, neurotoxic and amnesic. Paralytic toxins may cause paralysis and difficulty in breathing. Neurotoxic toxins are similar to but less severe than ciguatera poisoning. Amnesic toxins result in the usual symptoms of food poisoning and the possibility of amnesia, or a coma.

Avoid preparing fish caught during algal blooms to minimise the risk of any of these types of shellfish poisoning.

Australia has one of the largest fishing zones in the world, so seafood has a massive influence over local cuisine. As a food handler, one of your responsibilities is to make sure that the seafood you prepare does not cause an upset stomach — or worse.