LSU AgCenter enlightens nutrition agents on best practices for seafood safety

In the heart of Louisiana, where seafood reigns supreme, a group of LSU AgCenter nutrition agents gathered to unravel the secrets of optimal seafood handling.

In Louisiana, Seafood is more than just a meal, it serves as a cornerstone of the state’s culinary and cultural zeitgeist. Recently, in collaboration with Louisiana Sea Grant, the LSU AgCenter held an enlightening webinar at the Iberia Research Station for nutrition agents to shed light on the many nuances of handling seafood. Let’s dive into the key insights from this educational event where food safety took center stage!

From the moment seafood is harvested until it sizzles in the cooking pot, meticulous storage practices are key to keeping the product fresh and safe for consumption. Evelyn Watts, a seasoned researcher from LSU AgCenter and Sea Grant, emphasized some of the main tenets of properly handling and storing raw seafood.

“Read the label; It says to ‘keep frozen.’” Watts said. “Thaw under refrigeration. The best thing is to cut the bag. Do not refreeze the product after you thaw it. The quality is not going to be the same — and it’s not safe.”

Watts highlighted the lurking threat of Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that produces deadly toxins in improperly handled seafood, which starts to spread the moment these delicate proteins drop below safe storage temperatures (which, according to the USDA, is anything below 40 degrees Fahrenheit).

“There is a bacteria, Clostridium botulinum, that produces a deadly toxins, and we have to be very careful that seafood is properly handled,” Watt warned. “There is no temperature abuse, so once it’s vacuum-packed, it has to go into the freezer.”

Thomas Hymel, another LSU AgCenter and Sea Grant Agent, also provided agents with insights on the landscape of soaring food prices to help them empower consumers economically.

“You can buy and pack shrimp, and it’s cheaper than steak; it’s cheaper than chicken,” Hymel points out. “So it’s things like that. We have this abundance that we really need to spread the word about and let folks know how to take most advantage of that.”

The event went beyond theory, offering a hands-on experience in essential seafood preparation techniques. Agents also got a chance to get their hands dirty (in a good way!) —picking crab, peeling shrimp, and filleting fish — to gain the practical skills they need to share within their communities.

“Well, I’ve never cleaned a catfish before; my dad usually does it for me. ,” said Victoria Landry, an LSU AgCenter Nutrition & Community Health Agent, sharing her experience at the unique event. “It’s a great life skill to learn, and hopefully one day, I would like to teach my children that.”

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