Why is seafood worse than meat?

The following statements are not neccesarily true. If they are, please explain to me why. If they’re not… well, just explain how it is (I think) a widespread belief.

People tend to get sick by seafood more often than earthfood (hey… I kinda like that name), also, when sick, the seafood sickness tends to be more serious than the sickness caused by earthfood (or maybe ‘landfood’ is more correct?).

Why is that?

Two things: Seafood has a tendency to absorb toxins from polluted water. In particular, a lot of fish has mercury in it, so eating a lot of fish can build up heavy metals in your system.

Second: Seafood decays easily at room temperature, so it goes bad much more quickly if not refrigerated correctly.

Why does seafood decay more quickly? Is there something about living in the sea that your meat becomes of weaker constitution?

The sea is cold. water does a really great job of transporting heat out of things immersed in it. Bacteria and other things that live in the sea survive pretty well in the cold, and aren’t slowed down by refrigerators or even freezers anywhere as much as the warm-loving bacteria of earth-dwelling things. So, while you can kep fish usable for a while by putting it on ice, you shouldn’t do so very long. Nobody keeps raw fish in their freezer the way they keep frozen steaks. Nobody even tries to keep lobsters frozen – they keep them alive in tanks at the grocer’s, supermarket, or restaurant. It’s not just because people want it fresh – I’m sure they’d freeze lobsters if they could.

But, as a rule, seafood stays either alive until you get it, or it gets frozen/chilled and delivered fast. If it doesn’t, cold-living bacteria makes it go bad fast.

Mercury poisoning at the levels in fish is long-term, and really only a concern for children/fetuses (including mothers and nursers to be). Nobody’s vomiting because of mercury in fish.

But shellfish do concentrate biological toxins from red tides and other sources, and I assume those can make you worship at the porcelain throne.

So you’re saying that the seafood contains its own seamicrobes that consume it so rapidly? Why are these seamicrobes dangerous to us, if our environment is so much warmer than they’re used to?

Well, there are ciguatera and scombroid poisonings. Do they occur in/on land animal flesh? I don’t know. They seem fish specific.

Things to consider:
Freezing Fish is a highly recommended way to both kill parasites and keep it fresh.

As mentioned above, the bacteria in fish is used to colder temperatures. It can thrive at refrigeration temperatures, but not really at freezer tempratures. You can keep fish frozen for several months. (Not recommended for more than 6)

Frozen Lobster tails are readily available in most retail grocery stores.

All meat has its risks if not prepared properly. Mercury Poisoning is important to note, but you won’t get if from eating fish only a couple times a month. Most of the recent celebrity cases are from people who were eating sushi exclusively for each and every meal.

Was there a celebrity case other than Jeremy Piven?

I am spoiled living so close to the Pacific, but here are a few tips about determining the freshness of seafood.

If you are buying a whole fish, with the head still on, check the eyes. The eyes should be clear if it is fresh caught, the more the eyes are fogged up, the older the fish.

Filets of fish should smell only slightly of fish. If you are buying fish filets, or opening a package, and they smell strongly of fish, they are old.

Shellfish such as crab or shrimp tend to spoil sooner than fileted fish. Any whiff of ammonia means that the shellfish has turned. Shellfish will ammoniate surprisingly fast, in a day or so. You are better off buying shrimp or crab that has been flash frozen shortly after catch, than to buy ‘fresh’, unless you are buying it in a coastal town.

Mercury accumulates in fish over time, so older, bigger fish will have more. The fish themselves get mercury from smaller fish they eat, so the fish at the top of the food chain tend to have more. Even inland, fresh water fish have some mercury, but inland waters also have E. Coli pollution in places. Check with local authorities to see how safe the local bluegills and catfish are.

The difference between meat and fish is that if you beat your fish, it will die.

I eat both quite frequently and haven’t gotten sick from fish or seafood. Is there a study or something showing that fish or seafood have a higher incidence of food poisoning?

The issue with cold is also about general degradation of the flesh, not bacterial spoiling. The enzymes in animals that live in cold water have evolved for maximum efficiency at those temperatures. So a fish’s cells work best at, what is for it, normal temperatures. Those enzymes do all sorts of stuff in the ordianary workings of the cell, any many are concerned with tearing things down. Even a perfectly sterile piece of meat (and unless you contaminate it, most meat will be sterile) will degrade as these enzymes slowly take apart things. It is this degradation that changes the texture, taste, and smell of any meat - not bacterial action. The problem with fish is that those enzymes remain working reasonably well at very cold temperatures. So it is near impossible to keep the flesh fresh even when frozen. Really deep cold helps.

The action of filter feeders to grab and concentrate any bugs in the water is probably the big issue with getting sick. We had a very unfortunate outbreak of Hepatitis A due to contamination of the water near commercial oyster beds many years ago. And toxic algae - where the toxins become concentrated. The coral trout here concentrates such toxins from its normal diet, and you can get sick if you eat too much of it in a short time. Which is a pity, becuse it is a really nice fish.

I think oysters and clams have a bad reputation because of things like paralytic shellfish poisoning. But statistically I think seafood is probably safer than beef with E. Coli or mad cow.

Doesn’t Norovirus come from shellfish?

Isn’t an easily-overlooked factor that most meat is farm-raised, while a large portion of seafood is still caught wild? Farm raised cows are fed a steady diet of antibiotics and don’t get to come into contact with anything that might disease their valuable carcasses. Nobody can tell a swordfish what it’s allowed to associate with.


No idea.

I’ve heard of allergy to shellfish, but never to meat; there are lots of allergies to dairy, eggs and vegetables, but the OP doesn’t seem to be concerned about those.