How to Tell if Fish Has Gone Bad
There are certain foods that we can eat a little past their sell-by-date and it’s perfectly safe. With certain food it’s easy to tell if they are spoiled and no longer good to consume. Fruit and vegetables may turn soft and brown and items like bread will initially turn hard and stale and will then start to grow mold. Eating stale bread or overripe fruit isn’t likely to harm you, but when it comes to items such as fish, then eating it once it’s spoiled could give you food poisoning and make you very ill. One of the most commonly asked questions regarding this matter is how to tell if your fish has gone bad.
Below we share our top tips on how you can look, smell and touch to see if the fish is ok to eat.
Check the Sell-by-Date
This might seem like a really obvious step to take, but checking the use-by-date and sell-by-date on the packaging will give you an indication whether or not it’s safe to eat the fish. Remember the sell-by-date is different from the use-by-date though! The sell-by-date will indicate the day in which the item should be removed from the grocery store shelves and is aimed at retailers – this isn’t the date that the fish has to be eaten. You will usually have a couple more days after this date to consume the item of food. A best-by-date will suggest a date in which the item should be consumed for the best quality and the use-by-date is the date that manufacturers suggest you eat the food. Again, you can normally eat food a day past this date if it looks, smells and feels ok. There is some controversy regarding eating food past its use-by-date however and you should never eat fish past its use-by-date without fully inspecting it first.
Take the Smell Test
If you think back to many years ago when we ate food that wasn’t conveniently packaged in a factory, we would have had to use our instincts and senses to check whether an item of food was safe to eat or not. This is particularly important when it comes to testing whether you have spoiled fish. Fish obviously has a ‘fishy’ aroma but there is an obvious difference between a fresh fish scent and spoiled fish stink! In a nutshell, fish should not smell like rotten eggs or have a particularly pungent aroma. If the fish doesn’t smell right, then you need to throw it away immediately. Smell is one of the best ways to tell if fish or meat isn’t ok.
Feel the Texture
Take a look at the piece of fish you have. Whether it’s a fillet or a whole fish you will need to get a little hands-on at this stage. When you press your fingers into the flesh of the fish does it ‘bounce’ back into shape or do your finger marks remain on the surface? Old spoiled fish is soft to touch and doesn’t ‘bounce’ back. Fresh fish, on the other hand, should be firm to touch. Another indicator of ‘off’ fish is when it feels slimy to touch. Raw fish tends to become quite wet as it ages and can develop a layer of slime. If your fish is slimy then throw it away. Cooked fish will not develop this layer of slime, even if it has gone bad, so you will need to use a different approach will cooked or smoked fish.
Take a Look at the Color
Raw fish should look vibrant and fresh and the appearance can vary from fish to fish. Trout and salmon should have a healthy pink color whereas white fish should be white or cream in color. If your fish is looking slightly gray or has a bluish tinge then it’s not healthy to eat. If your raw fish has taken on a slightly ‘milky’ color then again it’s not good to eat. Salmon fillets that have gone bad will lose the white lines in the flesh. If these lines have disappeared or have turned gray then your fish is spoiled. Another indicator that your piece of raw fish isn’t good to eat is if the surface has any discoloration or spots. Take a look at the fish and inspect for any dark spots that don’t look usual. Fish such as salmon can also develop white patches too. If you are inspecting whole fish then take a look at the scales as these should be in tact. The eyes should look clear too.
Look for Freezer Burn
One of the best ways to extend the life of your fish is to freeze it on the day that you purchase it. This will extend its life by between 6-9 months depending on the type of fish that you are freezing. This is an excellent way to store fish as also it is relatively fast to defrost too. If you have stored frozen fish and want to check if it’s still ok then you will need to quickly inspect it for signs of freezer burn – this is where ice has formed crystals on the surface of the fish. If your fish has freezer burn you can actually still eat it but you will find that it will have lost most of its flavor and the texture won’t be good. It’s best to throw away any fish that has freezer burn.
If you have any doubts about your food and whether it is safe to eat it then you need to take the common sense approach. It’s important to follow all of the steps that we have included to ensure that your fish is not spoiled. Remember to follow your senses; how does it smell? How does it look? How does it feel? If you are still unsure, rather than risk nasty food poisoning, you should throw the fish away.
- How to Tell When Fish Goes Bad – eHow
- How can I tell if fish is spoiled? – Shelf Life Advice
- Selecting and Serving Fresh and Frozen Seafood Safely – FDA