How to deal with fish to prevent contamination

Keeping your catch safe from bacterial contamination during warm weather can be difficult, so here are some tips for handling your fish:

  1. keep the fish you've caught alive in an ice chest filled with water.  Use ice in the chest if at all possible, remember fish often swim in water that is much colder than the air temperature.
  2. If you can't keep the fish alive, store them in a cooler with plenty of ice preferably at a temperature below 4.4˚C (40°F).
  3. While cleaning and gutting the fish, be careful not to contaminate the meat during the removal of internal organs. Wash the fish with cold water when you've finished gutting them.
  4. Once the fish has been cleaned, keep them cold (under 4.4˚C or 40°F) until you're ready to cook them.
  5. If you aren't going to cook them right away, store them in the coldest part of the fridge or prepare them for freezing by wrapping tightly in vacuum sealed bags, ice glazed or in plastic wrap.  Never leave at room temperature for longer than is absolutely necessary.

Purchasing fish at the market or grocery store:

  1. Purchase fresh or frozen fish as the last thing before heading home to avoid exposing fish to unsafe temperatures for any longer than absolutely necessary.
  2. Prevent any leakage from contaminating other foods by ensuring the plastic bag or wrapping is very secure.
  3. Use a freezer bag or ice chest to store the fish in during the ride home.  It needs to be kept at below 4.4˚C (40°F).
  4. To ensure the quality of your fish, don't leave it in a hot car unless of course, it is in an appropriate storage container and at the correct temperature.
  5. Refrigerated as soon as possible after arriving home.

During the preparation and cooking process:

  1. Before and after handling raw fish, always wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Keep your work area clean to prevent contamination. 
  3. To prevent cross contamination of the work area, countertops, cutting boards and all utensils used should be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water.
  4. Be sure to use different utensils if you are working with other foods at the same time as preparing and cooking fish.   Avoid using the same platter for cooked and raw fish unless it was properly washed in between uses.
  5. A cutting board, used for fish preparation, should be thoroughly scrubbed with hot soapy water after each use and periodically cleaned with a bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach to approx 4 litres water).
    • Be sure your fish is cooked completely, check if the fish flakes easily and if the flesh is opaque rather than translucent and raw looking.   The internal temperature of fully cooked fish should be 145°F at its thickest point.


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