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Fish & Shellfish

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.

Potential hazards 

There are other potential hazards in fish and shellfish however, such as mercury, 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 escolar, ciguaterascombroid or histamine poisoning, parasites (worms) and bacterial and viral agents. Are you concerned about radiation in BC fish from Fukushima? Don't be - read thisHealth 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.

Good handling practices

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.

Guidelines for retail

Oysters for Raw Consumption

2016Notices 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).

Fish Holding Tanks

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 simplified Chinese). 

Opening a fish processing plant?

Planning on going fishing or digging up clams and oysters on the beach?

Additional information

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.

Contact us

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)

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