OTTAWA, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Health officials warn Canadians raw shellfish -- oysters, clams, scallops, mussels or cockles -- can carry bacteria, viruses or toxins if not properly handled.
Officials at Health Canada said shellfish is a nutritious food choice but, as with all food, it is important to store, handle and prepare shellfish appropriately to help prevent illness.
In particular, children, pregnant women, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to foodborne illness and should avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish, Health Canada warned.
To prevent foodborne illness from shellfish:
-- Buy shellfish from reputable sources, and keep them cold.
-- Refrigerate immediately after purchase. Do not put live shellfish in a closed container or into fresh water. Cover the shells with a damp cloth and place on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. Store shucked (opened) shellfish in a closed container.
-- Raw shellfish can be kept refrigerated for a few days, depending on their freshness and quality, and can be stored in the freezer for two to four months. Shucked oysters should be frozen if you do not eat them within two days.
-- Make sure packaging is not torn and there is minimal frost or ice crystal formation. Too much frost could mean the shellfish were frozen, thawed and refrozen.
-- Never defrost shellfish at room temperature. Thaw them in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave if you will be cooking them immediately. If thawing in cold water, replace water every 30 minutes.
-- Keep raw shellfish separate from cooked food.
-- Wash hands before preparing foods, wash hands after handling raw shellfish, and wash counters and utensils with soap and warm water after preparation.
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