You don’t need to avoid frozen fish if you want good quality and nutritional value, says Barton Seaver, the director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
“The technology of freezing fish has evolved to the point where it’s comparable to, if not better than, fresh fish,” Seaver explains.
More than 85 percent of the seafood we eat in the United States is imported and the vast majority is frozen at some point, according to the National Fisheries Institute. Freezing preserves the nutritional value of the seafood.
“Historically, seafood was frozen as a last-ditch effort to keep it from spoiling. If fish wasn’t sold by Friday, it was frozen so it could be sold when demand was up. So it was a crappy piece of fish to begin with. But these days, fish is pulled from the water, filleted, and frozen within hours. That sounds pretty good to me.”
Stores that sell previously frozen fish, however, may be shortchanging the consumer of many benefits.
“If it’s frozen, it can stay in the freezer until you use it on your schedule,” says Seaver. “Why thaw it and start the process of spoilage? Retailers are playing to a taboo about frozen fish.”
To select good-quality frozen seafood:
- Make sure the packaging isn’t torn or opened.
- Avoid packages with frost, ice crystals, or liquid inside.
- Avoid seafood that’s discolored.
Here’s a guide to the freezer shelf life of seafood, stored at 0 degrees or below, courtesy of the National Fisheries Institute:
|Product||Purchased Commercially Frozen for Freezer Storage||Purchased Fresh and Frozen at Home||Never Frozen, Thawed, or Previously Frozen and Refrigerated at Home|
|Fish Fillets and Steaks|
|Cod, Flounder||10-12 months||6-8 months||36 hours|
|Haddock, Halibut||10-12 months||6-8 months||36 hours|
|Pollock, Ocean Perch||8-9 months||4 months||36 hours|
|Rockfish, Sea Trout||8-9 months||4 months||36 hours|
|Ocean Perch (Pacific)||8-9 months||4 months||36 hours|
|Mullet, smelt||6-8 months||NA||36 hours|
|Salmon (cleaned)||7-9 months||NA||36 hours|
|Crab (Dungeness)||6 months||6 months||5 days|
|Crab (king)||12 months||9 months||7 days|
|Crab (snow)||6 months||6 months||5 days|
|Crab, cocktail claws||NA||4 months||5 days|
|Blue crabmeat (fresh)||NA||4 months||5-7 days|
|Blue crabmeat (pasteurized)||NA||NA||6 months|
|Shrimp||9 months||5 months||4 days|
|Surimi products||10-12 months||9 months||2 weeks|
|Clams, shucked||NA||NA||5 days|
|Oysters, shucked||NA||NA||4-7 days|
|Lobster, live||NA||NA||1-2 days|
|Lobster, tail meat||8 months||6 months||4-5 days|
|Squid||8-9 months||4 months||36 hours|
|Fish portions||18 months||NA||NA|
|Fish sticks||18 months||NA||NA|
|Scallops||16 months||10 months||NA|
|Shrimp||12 months||8 months||NA|
|Herring||NA||2 months||3-4 days|
|Salmon, whitefish||NA||2 months||5-8 days|
NA means the information is not available.
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