Most small fish and those that don't contain high levels of mercury are safe for the majority of the population to eat. Pregnant women, children and people with other health concerns should talk their doctors to ensure they are following established guidelines for safe eating. Properly handling and cooking of fish prevents foodborne illnesses.
As a general rule, smaller fish that don't eat large quantities of other fish are safe to eat. Local advisories about bacteria or other environmental issues sometimes impact the safety of any fish. Typically, it is safe for most people to eat tilapia, catfish, freshwater trout and whitefish. Safe canned fish varieties include salmon and light chunk tuna. Oysters, crabs and clams don't usually contain large amounts of mercury, but local advisories may restrict their consumption.
Pregnant women should monitor their fish intake carefully. Anchovies, herring, sardines and some varieties of mackerel are safe. Shrimp and pollock are also acceptable. Women should eat up to 12 ounces of seafood a week during their pregnancies and limit consumption of albacore and tuna steaks to less than 6 ounces a week.
Properly handling and cooking fish is essential to prevent the development of bacteria that lead to food poisoning. Fresh fish should not smell fishy, nor should it be discolored. Keep frozen fish frozen until it requires thawing in the refrigerator. Use fresh fish as soon as possible. Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep hot seafood hot and cold seafood cold while serving, and refrigerate leftovers promptly.