How to Tell if Shrimp is Bad (Definitive Guide)

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Shrimp is one of the more popular seafood, with many people enjoying its mixture of sweet and salty tastes. However, many people are unaware of when their favorite seafood is unsuitable for eating, which can cause food poisoning. This article will cover several signs that shrimp is bad, plus other common questions about storing it.

Signs That Shrimp Is Bad

These are the signs that tell you that your shrimp is bad.

Ammonia-Like Smell

The smell is one of the most obvious signs that shrimp has gone bad. Unlike most other seafood, fresh shrimp does not have a fishy smell. Instead, shrimp has a very mild scent, sometimes smelling like salty seawater or else having no smell at all.  However, raw shrimp that smells fishy or like ammonia is unsuitable for eating. This smell indicates that bacteria has begun to grow on it, so it is unfit for human consumption. Similarly, if you have cooked shrimp and notice it has a sour smell, this also indicates that the food has gone off. Before purchasing shrimp, you should always check the smell. It is safer to purchase the food from a fishmonger or over the counter, so you can do this.

Slimy Texture

Another sign of raw, bad shrimp is texture. Shrimp should feel firm to the touch if it’s okay to eat. Shrimp that has gone bad will feel slimy, and the shell will feel slippery. This is true regardless if the shrimp has been shelled.  The shell can be a good indication of the shrimp’s quality if buying shelled shrimp. Any shrimp that has a broken shell is no longer safe to eat.

Black Dots

Similarly, the shrimp’s shell should have an off-white color and be free of marks. It should also have a glossy sheen to it. When a shrimp starts to go off, this will cause black dots to appear on the shell. You should not eat shrimp shells with black dots on them. Also, the shrimp’s shells should be unbroken, and the shrimp’s body should be connected to the shell. If the shrimp’s body is loose or the shell feels soggy, decomposition has started, and you should not eat the shrimp.

Faded Color

Another sign of bad shrimp is the color. Unshelled raw shrimp usually looks white or slightly off-white and should be transparent. It may also appear a little pink. After cooking shrimp, it should look opaque and white. It should also have touches of red or pink. If unshelled shrimp is bad, it will usually appear a faded color. It may also appear discolored, showing that the bacteria have begun decomposing the shrimp’s body. Any discoloration on the shrimp’s shell, tail, or head is a strong sign that it has gone bad. Fishmongers sometimes use chemicals like sodium bi-sulfate to bleach the shrimp’s shell. Usually, they do this to hide the shrimp’s discoloration. Chemicals like this will leave the shrimp looking yellow or with gritty marks, indicating that the shrimp may be bad.

Dry or Shrunken Eyes

Sometimes shrimp is sold with the head intact, which can help determine if it’s okay to consume. Raw shrimp eyes should look shiny and moist. Bad shrimp will often have dry or shrunken eyes. Any shrimp that does not have eyes but an intact head will likely be bad.

Expiration Date

However, sometimes people can’t detect certain bacteria in a shrimp’s body, particularly if they are packaged. If so, you should use the sell-by date or best-before date to indicate how fresh it is. Usually, shrimp within four days of this date should be safe to eat. Anything more than four days increases the risk of shrimp being bad.

How to Tell If Frozen Shrimp is Bad

Most frozen shrimp should be safe to eat, as the fishermen usually freeze them quite soon after catching them. However, frozen shrimp can sometimes be frozen, thawed, and frozen again, affecting its appearance. If ice crystals or frost have formed on the packaging, this often shows that this has happened to the shrimp. You may also find that there is ice on the shrimp itself. Freezer burn is caused when shrimp is frozen for a long time, usually for more than three months, and the air gets inside the bag. A tear in the packaging often causes this. Freezer burn causes shrimp to feel dry or tough. However, freezer-burned shrimp is usually still safe, although it may not taste as good as fresher frozen shrimp.  Frozen shrimp that exhibits similar “off” signs as fresh shrimp should be avoided, such as the smell or discoloration.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Shrimp?

All shrimp contains bacteria of some kind that is usually harmless to humans. However, shrimp that has gone bad will contain bad bacteria or parasites which contain neurotoxins. Consuming it can cause issues in a person’s gastrointestinal tract, known as shellfish food poisoning. It can take between 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to become apparent. These symptoms can include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the abdomen or cramps
  • Nausea
  • Blood spots in stools
  • Fever
You should contact your doctor immediately if you have consumed spoiled shrimp or exhibit any of these symptoms after eating it.

How Long Does Shrimp Last?

The shelf-life of shrimp depends on the type that has been purchased. If you have bought raw shrimp without a shell, this can be consumed up to a day or two after, as long as it has been correctly refrigerated. If you have bought raw shrimp with a shell, this can last a little longer, up to three days. If you have cooked shrimp and then refrigerated it, it can last up to four days. After cooking or purchasing raw shrimp, you can freeze it to keep it safe for up to three months. If you have thawed frozen shrimp, eat within 24 hours.

Can You Freeze Shrimp?

One of the best ways to keep shrimp fresh is by freezing it. You should put shrimp inside an airtight container to prevent them from being spoiled or cross-contamination with other food. It is best to remove the shrimp’s head but keep the shells on to make the shrimp last longer. You should wash and drain it before freezing it raw. If you freeze cooked shrimp, you should chill it quickly and place it inside a container. There should be approximately ¼-inch space between the shrimp and the top of the container or bag. It will then be safe for the freezer.

To Sum Up

Shrimp can be a delicious addition to any meal. Still, it is important to ensure it is safe and healthy to eat before cooking. To do this, ensure the smell, color, texture, and appearance are all fine. Cooking bad shrimp will not make it fit for consumption, and you should immediately dispose of it.