Possible risks by consuming fish


Some risks can be associated with fish consumption, e.g. due to pathogenic bacteria, parasites and chemical pollution from the environment. Histamine can naturally be present in various foods and in low levels it´s harmless to humans. However if some types of fish like mackerel, tuna and sardines are kept over 5°C for some time, histamine can increase to levels which can lead to so called scombroid poisoning in humans. Sharks and whales are examples of species that can collect levels of mercury over permitted limits. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) like DDT, PCB and dioxin can accumulate in the fatty tissue of organisms.

Icelandic seafood however is well under the security levels set by the EU and minor risk associated with their consumption. Positive effects of fish consumption are therefore far more important than negative risk factors, especially due to positive effects of fish lipids/omega-3 fatty acids which fatty fish contain a lot of.

Various risks can be associated by consuming unheated raw seafood like sushi, cold smoked and gravad fish due to e.g. Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli and Salmonella as well as parasites but these organisms are normally killed during cooking. Risk can be diminished or eliminated by proper cooling, freezing, salting, drying, pasteurisation, canning and use of preservatives. Regulations have widely been set regarding consumption of raw seafood, which state that raw fish shall be kept at -20°C for at least 24 hours prior to consumption but this treatment is considered to kill all parasites in fish.


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