As far as finger food goes, shrimp cocktail is nutritionally one of the healthier options out there.

Consider: One large shrimp has just 7 calories and almost no fat yet packs more than a gram of protein. By comparison, one cocktail-sized pig in a blanket has 67 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams protein.

But serve up that shrimp without taking the proper safety precautions and you might end up sending your guests home with an unwanted party favor: food poisoning. Why? Because shrimp may harbor bacteria that could make you sick.

In 2014, Consumer Reports purchased and tested almost 500 pounds of frozen shrimp (some raw, some cooked) from stores in 27 cities across the country.

What we found concerned us: 60 percent of the raw samples and 16 percent of the cooked samples harbored bacteria, including vibrio and E. coli—bacteria that can cause food poisoning and symptoms like diarrhea and dehydration. (Read the full coverage of our testing here, including which shrimp to buy.)

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should cross that shrimp platter off your party menu. Handling and cooking shrimp properly can go a long way toward preventing bacteria that might be on your shrimp from multiplying. And if you're cooking it yourself, almost all the bacteria we found will be destroyed during the cooking process.

Here are six tips to help you serve the safest (and healthiest) shrimp platter possible.

1. Choose Wild Shrimp Caught in the U.S.

In our tests of raw shrimp, the samples of U.S. wild shrimp were least likely to contain bacteria: 20 percent contained bacteria, compared with 69 to 83 percent of the farmed shrimp from Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh.

2. Buy Shrimp Last

Bacteria multiply at temperatures above 40° F, so don’t let shrimp warm up before cooking or serving. Make them one of the last items you place in your grocery cart, and if you’re buying them at the seafood counter, ask for a bag of ice to keep them chilled for the ride home.

3. Wash Up

If you’re deveining and cooking raw shrimp, immediately wash your hands, and any kitchen utensils that have come in contact with them, with soap and water. That reduces the risk of spreading bacteria from the shrimp to any other food you’re serving. Running any kitchen implements, including plastic cutting boards, through the hottest cycle in your dishwasher is an effective way to eliminate bacteria. Consult our guide for more tips on how to safely devein and prepare shrimp.

4. Keep Shrimp Refrigerated

Once you’ve arranged your shrimp platter, place it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. To store shrimp and all other foods safely, your fridge should maintain a temperature between 35° F and 38° F.

5. Put Shrimp on Ice

Never leave perishable foods out of the fridge for more than 2 hours (1 hour when temperatures are above 90° F). That's because bacteria that can cause illness grow quickly at warm temperatures. To help keep it cold, serve shrimp on chilled stainless steel platters or in stainless steel bowls placed over a slightly larger platter or bowl lined with ice. That way the platter transmits the cold and your shrimp stay chilled.

6. Serve Shrimp the Healthy Way

This isn’t exactly a safety tip, but why ruin shrimp’s healthfulness by serving it up with sugary sauces? A quarter cup of McCormick Original Cocktail Sauce for Seafood, for example, packs 16 grams of sugar—that’s four teaspoons of the white stuff.

Instead, Consumer Reports' in-house chef, Claudia Gallo, has masterminded this delicious, no-sugar recipe that will look festive on any holiday spread.

Shrimp Cocktail With Herbed Green Sauce

  • 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, cooked and chilled
  • 1 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper

In a food processor, combine the parsley, cilantro, walnuts, chives, garlic, and jalapeno. Pulse to a rough paste. Add the lime juice; process until the sauce comes together. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil; process until combined. Stir in the salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve with shrimp.

Nutritional Information: 4 oz. of shrimp plus 1-1/2 tbsp. sauce has 230 calories, 12 g fat, 230 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar, and 29 g protein.

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