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Shopping for Seafood

Use these simple steps to ensure the seafood you buy is the healthiest, highest quality product possible.

Selecting Fresh Fish

  • Buy fish that is refrigerated or properly iced. Fish should be displayed on a thick bed of fresh ice that is not melting and preferably in a case or under some type of cover. Fish should be arranged with the bellies down so that the melting ice drains away from the fish, thus reducing the chances of spoilage.
  • Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour, or like ammonia.
  • A fish's eyes should be clear and bulge a little (except for a few naturally cloudy-eyed fish types, such as walleye pike).
  • Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free of slime. Dull flesh could mean the fish is old.
    Note: Fish fillets that have been previously frozen may have lost some of their shine, but they are fine to eat.
  • The flesh should spring back when pressed.
  • Fish fillets should display no darkening or drying around the edges. Fish fillets should have no green or yellowish discoloration and should not appear dry or mushy in any areas.

Selecting Frozen Fish

  • Don't buy frozen seafood if the package is open, torn, or crushed on the edges.
  • Avoid packages that are positioned above the "frost line" or at the top of the freezer case in the store's freezer.
  • If the package cover is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. If frost or ice crystals are present, the fish might have been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen.

Selecting Shellfish: Special guidelines

  • Check for a tag and label that contains specific information about the product. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires harvesters and processors of oysters, clams, and mussels to put a tag on sacks or containers of live shellfish.) This information should include the certification number for the processor. If the shellfish does not have the tag and label, the shellfish might not have been harvested and processed in accordance with the national shellfish safety controls.
  • Discard Cracked/Broken Shellfish. Throw away clams, oysters, and mussels if their shells are cracked or broken.
  • Do a "Tap Test": Live clams, oysters, and mussels will close up when the shell is tapped. If they don't close when tapped, do not select them.
  • Check for Leg Movement: Live crabs and lobsters should show some leg movement. Crabs and lobsters spoil rapidly after death, so only live crabs and lobsters should be selected and prepared.

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