Tilapia Safety

Finding the best source for farm-raised tilapia and staying on the right side of tilapia safety

In recent years, the importance of tilapia safety has buoyed itself toward the surface for businesses that deal in the mild-tasting whitefish. Simply put, what has triggered this rise is out of necessity. Tilapia fish is now is the eighth-most consumed seafood in the United States. Therefore, anything but total compliance with tilapia safety precautions can be costly for anyone that imports, distributes, sells, or raises tilapia for public consumption.

At the heart of tilapia’s popularity is a perfect confluence of diet trends, flavor and cost. Tilapia is cheap to raise. Nearly three-quarters of the 2.3 million metric tons of tilapia harvested for consumption every year is farm-raised. Because most of those tilapia farms are located in Latin America, Egypt, and Southeast Asia, buyers should tread lightly. It’s difficult to say what, if any, tilapia aquaculture practices farms in those countries follow. When buying tilapia to sell or distribute for public consumption here in the United States, consider the following:

1. Buy tilapia from trusted sources and know where it's coming from.

2. Avoid buying frozen tilapia if possible.

3. Learn tilapia safety through classes/training.

Buy locally to avoid the unknown variables with tilapia farm-raised outside the United States

These words have never been more true when it comes tilapia safety. Your best bet is choosing from tilapia fisheries right here in the USA. Although the United States maintains thorough inspection procedures on food imported into the country, it's best to choose home-grown tilapia when available. It's difficult to say what rules other countries follow, if any.

Choose fresh tilapia over frozen, if possible

Ideally, tilapia should be moist and resilient--two qualities difficult to determine when examining tilapia in the store. When thawed, frozen tilapia may occasionally appear mushy or give off a musky odor. If this happens, throw it away immediately. Also, stay away from tilapia that's not frozen individually, or appears to have dark or white spots. These are signs of poor quality.

Get trained--tilapia safety and seafood education opportunities are readily available

When it comes to the harvesting of food, the transportation of that food over vast distances, the storage of it and finally preparation--all businesses involved need to have proper safety measures established.
Food Safety.gov has a special section on their website devoted specifically to seafood. Here you can find links to other government websites, such as the FDA, regarding proper seafood handling procedures. Trade-Seafood Industry Directory is a good resource for locating companies that provide training services in seafood handling.