Safe fish delicacies at Christmas

Food is often an important part of the Christmas festivities. Refrigerators are filled with raw materials and tables loaded with cooked food. Foodstuffs are also given and received as Christmas gifts. Good hygiene, an unbroken cold chain, as well as correct handling and storage of food are the cornerstones of safe feasting.

Store in cold

Caution pays when handling fish delicacies at Christmas time. Fish spoils easily. Fresh fish and all fish products packed in protective gas or vacuum packages as well as roe should be stored at 0 - +3°C and consumed by the use before date.

Other fish products, such as fish semi-preserves (for example herring in glass jar) should be stored according to the instructions provided in the labelling, and never at more than +6°C. Unopened fish preserves can be stored at room temperature. If the package is damaged or swollen, the product should be discarded.

Handle correctly

Clean and cool the fish to below +3oC as soon as possible after catching. Filet the fish on a clean base using clean utensils.

The roe of freshwater fish, such as whitefish, vendace and pike should be frozen unsalted before it is consumed, due to the risk of broad tapeworm. Roe must be kept at the freezing temperature ( 18°C) for at least 24 hours. If the roe is salted before freezing, the freezing time should be longer. Lake fish served uncooked (e.g. gravad) should also be frozen prior to serving. Salmon, rainbow trout and their roe need not be frozen.

Take the risk of listeria bacteria in cold-smoked and gravad fish products into account

Listeria bacteria are found on a regular basis in cold-smoked and gravad fish products packed in vacuum or modified atmosphere. Listeria bacteria is a common environmental bacteria that can cause illness in elderly people, people with reduced resistance and pregnant women. Healthy adults and children are rarely seriously affected.

Secure cold chain for fish given as a gift

The storage of foodstuffs at room temperature involves a risk of food poisoning. Incorrectly stored products spoil quickly. If you give fish as a Christmas gift, make sure the cold chain is unbroken till the final user of the product. Safe products to be given as wrapped gifts include e.g. cookies, chocolate, spices, mustards and preserves.

More tips for safe Christmas feasting are provided on Evira's web.