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Although the government has specific regulations and programs to ensure high-quality seafood in the marketplace today, it is still important that you (as a seafood entrepreneur) know how to select safe and premium seafood. So, how do you choose? How do know your seafood is safe and high-quality?

Seafood in the Marketplace

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Commerce, and some federal and state bureaus are working together to ensure that the seafood you can buy in the marketplace is safe and healthy. Like any other produce, seafood is subject to the scrutiny of the FDA and the requirements of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. The FDA administers compulsory fish inspection programs and voluntary quality inspection programs for all domestic and international seafood retailers and processors to make certain all seafood sold and distributed are risk-free and wholesome.

Seafood processors are obligated to put into action a program called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). Under the HACCP program, seafood in carefully and critically monitored at vital points in the supply chain. HACCP will prevent food safety problems from developing instead of finding out problems only after production. Through HACCP, the responsibility to ensure that seafood in safe to eat is placed on the hands of the seafood processors. Seafood processors should examine all aspects of their operation for dangers and risks such as toxins, chemicals, and environmental contaminants, as well as physical hazards which can taint the safety and quality of seafood.

Ensuring Your Seafood Is Safe and High-Quality

It is not wise to just rely on the government’s programs and regulations when choosing your seafood. Although these programs and regulations have 100% governed the seafood industry, you still have the responsibility to ensure your consumers or customers of high-quality seafood. You should be an expert in spotting freshness and quality on your seafood products.

Of course, there is no strict formula in choosing top quality seafood. However, many successful seafood entrepreneurs disclosed that it is pretty simple. They just used 6 things- their five senses and their common sense.

You need to get seafood from knowledgeable and highly-regarded seafood dealers and suppliers. Your supplier should have a trusted and proven track record in seafood distribution and proper seafood handling. If possible, go and visit your dealer’s place of operation.

Take a look at how they handle seafood and how clean their place is. Seafood must be properly iced and refrigerated or frozen. If you smell something foul or fishy whether from their counters or freezers, don’t get seafood from them.

At The Counter

FISH: If you are planning to get fish, keep an eye out for its flesh if it is firm. If the flesh of fish has an indentation when you press with your finger, it is not of premium quality. A shiny flesh indicates a fish’s freshness. The whole fish’s eyes should be bright, clear, full, and protruding. Fresh fish should have bright red or pink gills. For fish fillers and steaks, make sure there is no darkening, browning, or yellowing around the edges.

CLAMS, OYSTERS, MUSSELS: Live clams, oysters, and mussels might have somewhat gaping shells and must tightly close when tapped. If not, the shellfish might be dead and must be discarded.

CRABS, LOBSTER LEGS: Live crabs and lobster legs must show leg movement. Leg movement will decrease when refrigerated, but legs must show some movement.
SHRIMP: Raw shrimp meat must be firm and have a mild odor. Shrimp shells should not have blackened edges or spots.

SCALLOP: Fresh scallop meats should have a distinct sweet odor and have a firm texture. If the meat has a sour or iodine odor, it is considered as spoiled.

SQUID: Whole squid must have clear and full eyes. The skin should not be torn and the meat must be firm. Fresh squids have cream-colored flesh with reddish brown spots.

At The Freezer

On board fish vessels, freshly-caught seafood should be immediately processed and frozen at very low temperatures. When choosing and buying frozen whole fish, you should make sure the fish is free of ice crystals without discoloration. Fish fillets and steaks must not be solidly frozen in packages. The fish’s flesh should not have evidence of drying out like white or dark spots, discolorations, or fading of the red or pink color.

The package should not have no frost or ice particles. If there are ice crystals, the fish might have been stored for a long time or thawed and refrozen. Packages should be perfectly-sealed (no open, torn, or crushed edges).