Shellfish are a prime target for bacteria and can be dangerous to eat if they have gone off. The first sign to check for is smell. Does it smell of the sea? If there is the slightest hint of any other smell, don’t buy it. For fish, check the colours. They should be bright and shiny; the eyes too. If they are dull, then the fish is not fresh. Also, look inside the gills. They should be a rich red.
Prawns, lobsters and shrimps
Again, check for smell; they should smell of the sea. Any hint of ammonia is a red light: don’t buy. Truly fresh shrimp, lobster and prawns will have whitish, almost translucent flesh. Do not buy prawns with black spots or rings (unless it’s black tiger shrimp) as this indicates the meat is starting to break down. Shrimp, prawn or lobster with pink meat should be avoided.
Don’t buy any kind of meat from an open-air market unless you like gambling with the chances of E Coli or Salmonella contamination. Go to a air-conditioned butcher shop or a supermarket. Check the sell-by date, and don’t buy if the meat looks wet or if packaging is torn.
Be wary of packages of meat that have been stacked too high in the fridge; this may mean the fridge is filled beyond its capacity to keep the meat cold.
It’s easy enough to see whether vegetables are fresh. But when you get them home it’s a good idea to wash them with vinegar or, better, with a tablespoon of baking soda. This will clear the skin of any dirt, dust or other contaminants. If you detect little black fruit flies buzzing around, buy your veg elsewhere.
Make sure the skins of the fruit you buy are intact. This is nature’s packaging and it’s pretty efficient at keeping the bugs out. Avoid fruit that’s already been cut unless it’s sliced in front of you, preferably by someone wearing gloves. If you’re not going to eat the fruit today, buy it slightly green. It’ll ripen at room temperature in the coming days. Just make sure it’s protected from insects – or monkeys, or elephants or whatever wildlife there is around you.
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