According to the American Tilapia Association, tilapia is the fifth most popular fish consumed in the U.S. tilapia is both farm-raised and wild-caught, but farm-raised tilapia is becoming the more common source. Safely prepared tilapia is essential in controlling and preventing food poisoning and food-borne illnesses, and properly handled seafood can be an excellent source of nutrients and protein in a healthy diet.
According to Nutrition Data, tilapia is a good source of phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B-12, iron, and selenium. It is also fairly high in cholesterol and protein. It is low in sodium, providing only 56 milligrams per 100-gram serving. It also provides 240 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to be beneficial for the brain. The American Tilapia Association also states that tilapia had the lowest mercury levels of all tested seafood.
Fish and Parasites
Illnesses from parasites are less common than total food-borne illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses, ServSafe states. However, these are a significant source of fish-related food illnesses, because parasites can contaminate water easily. Anisakis simplex is a type of parasite that infects various fish, and it is spread to humans when undercooked or raw fish is consumed. Being sure to fish in clean waters and to purchase fish from reputable suppliers is the best way to prevent these parasites from causing food-borne illness.
Fish and Toxins
Seafood toxins cannot be smelled or tasted, ServSafe emphasizes. Cooking and freezing also do not destroy these toxins. It is extremely important to purchase your fish from reputable sources in order to ensure that your fish is safe. Tilapia are not toxin-producing fish, but some microorganisms on the fish surfaces can sometimes produce toxins. Toxicity symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, fever, headache, and neurological symptoms.
Preventing Food Poisoning
Selecting, storing, and preparing fish safely is the best way to prevent food poisoning. Do not purchase fish from unlicensed vendors, and be sure to keep your fish refrigerated at 41 degrees or colder until ready to use. Visit the Food and Drug Administration website for updates of food safety recalls and "local catch alerts" to see if there are any cautions about purchasing fish in your area. The University of Minnesota cautions against purchasing fish that smells fishy, because this suggests the fish may have gone bad. Avoid accidentally cross-contaminating other foods with your raw fish by storing it on the bottom shelf and with a dish under the fish package to catch leaks.
Fish Food Safety
The FDA also recommends using fresh fish within two days of purchase or freezing it until ready to use. Frozen fish should not be allowed to thaw and be re-frozen, and when you do thaw your fish, be sure to thaw in the refrigerator or under cold running water. When you cook your fish, check to be sure it is thoroughly cooked by seeing if the fish flakes apart. The fish should be opaque and pull apart easily. Once your fish is cooked, serve it immediately, keep it hot, or cool it rapidly. Refrigerate leftovers immediately, and do not taste-test suspected old food. The University of Minnesota discourages purchasing cooked fish products from display cases that also hold raw fish, because potential cross-contamination can cause food-borne illness, as well.