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STATE HEALTH AGENCY REPORTS NO INCREASE IN SEAFOOD COMPLAINTS

 STATE HEALTH AGENCY REPORTS NO INCREASE IN SEAFOOD COMPLAINTS
 OLYMPIA, Wash., Feb. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was released today by the Washington State Department of Health:
 State health officials have not seen an increase in reports of contaminated seafood over the last several months, despite news accounts that 20 percent of Pacific Coast seafood falls below federal safety standards.
 The "Los Angeles Times" Thursday reported that an unpublished preliminary study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that 20 percent of seafood sampled in California, Oregon, Alaska and Washington violated federal standards, including labeling violations and low net weight, not simply health standards.
 The Washington State Department of Health averages fewer than 10 calls per month from citizens or commercial operators regarding possible contamination. There also has been no increase in reported diseases associated with seafood consumption.
 The state health agency staff assists the public, local health departments and the FDA in investigating illnesses resulting from food contamination.
 In addition, the agency monitors, samples and regulates closely shellfish programs in Washington state -- both commercial and recreational.
 "Washington State has one of the most comprehensive shellfish protection programs in the United States," said State Health Officer Mimi Fields, M.D., M.P.H.
 The agency noted that about 30 Washington residents reported illnesses last year from shellfish, including about a dozen residents in the Long Beach area who consumed razor clams contaminated with domoic acid.
 This naturally occurring toxin, similar to red tide, forced the state to close the recreational harvest season for razor clams early and to close the commercial crab season temporarily.
 The Washington State Department of Health offered the following tips for consumers regarding the purchase of seafood:
 TIPS FOR CONSUMERS BUYING SEAFOOD
 FRESH FISH
 -- Buy only fresh fish that is firm and shiny, either whole or in fillets.
 -- Watch out for darkening around the edges, or brown or yellowish discoloration, especially if areas appear dry or mushy.
 -- Press the fish; if it leaves an indentation, it's not the freshest.
 -- Be sure the eyes are clear and bulge a little. Only a few fish, such as Walleye Pike, have naturally cloudy eyes.
 -- Don't buy cooked seafood, such as shrimp, crab or smoked salmon, if it is displayed with raw fish. May be cross-contaminated.
 FRESH SHELLFISH
 -- Be sure containers of shucked products, such as oysters, have a state certification number.
 -- Make sure products sold in shells, such as clams, have closed shells, or that shells close when tapped slightly.
 -- Check for a "pull date" on shucked products.
 -- Buy only shellfish that is refrigerated or covered with crushed ice.
 FROZEN FISH
 -- Avoid packages placed above the frost line in the store's freezer compartment.
 -- Look for signs of frost or ice crystals, which could indicate the fish has been stored for a long time, or has been thawed and re-frozen.
 -- Do not select packages that are open, torn or damaged.
 -- Watch out for evidence of drying out, such as white or dark spots, discoloration or fading of red or pink flesh.
 AFTER YOU TAKE FRESH FISH HOME
 -- Eat most fresh fish within two days, except tuna, bluefish and mahi-mahi, which should be eaten within 24 hours.
 -- Refrigerate fresh fish at home as soon as possible at 32 to 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
 -- Throw away fish with strong fishy or ammonia odor.
 -- Planning to keep fresh fish more than two days? Freeze it immediately. Rinse under cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Wrap tightly in plastic and then in aluminum foil before putting it in freezer. Always thaw frozen fish or seafood in refrigerator, not out on kitchen counter.
 -0- 2/28/92
 /CONTACT: Dean R. Owen, 206-753-3934, or Maryanne Guichard, 206-753-4183, or Ned Therien, 206-753-5128, all of the Washington State Department of Health/ CO: Washington State Department of Health ST: Washington IN: FOD SU:


SC-JH -- SE004 -- 3763 02/28/92 13:53 EST
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