Canada’s food guide advises to eat at least
2 servings of fish every week. Fish are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids which promote good health by reducing the risks of coronary heart disease and decreasing depression.
There are other potential hazards in fish and shellfish however, such as
cadmium and other chemical contaminants. Shellfish toxins can cause serious illness, and
shellfish harvesters should be aware of the dangers. Other problems with fish and shellfish may be caused by
ciguatera, scombroid or histamine poisoning,
parasites (worms) and
bacterial and viral agents. Are you concerned about radiation in BC fish from Fukushima? Don't be - read this. Health Canada also advises that seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish) is one of the 10 most common allergens.
If you think you’ve experienced a foodborne illness from eating fish or shellfish, see your doctor and contact your
local health authority. A summary of symptoms for shellfish poisoning can be viewed here.
Temperature control and good handling practices are critical to reduce fish and shellfish illnesses. The safety of seafood products decreases rapidly above refrigeration temperatures. Follow the “cook”, “clean”, “chill”, “separate” principles to prevent foodborne illness.
2016 - Notices for restaurants and establishments serving raw oysters. During warmer weather
Vibrio parahaemolyticus levels in raw oysters can increase - if you are serving oysters for raw consumption, see this
food safety plan and
shellfish receiving log. You are also required to keep the shellfish harvest tags for a minimum of 90 days (see Bivalve Shellfish Safety – Restaurant and Retail Operator Advice).
If you retail or sell live fish and shellfish there are other guidelines you must be aware of, such as the correct temperature and salinity for holding live fish (see
Live Retail Fish Holding Systems Guidelines also translated into
Traditional Chinese and
fish processing plant?
Planning on going
fishing or digging up clams and oysters on the beach?
Additional information about specific illnesses associated with shellfish can be found on the Diseases and Conditions pages:
The information on these pages represent the work we do on behalf of the public, industry and government. Some of this information was written for the general public and some was written in technical language for public health.
Food Protection Services • 604.707.2440
NCC for Environmental Health • 604.829.2551
Poison Control Centre • 604.682.5050 (local) or
1.800.567.8911 (toll free)