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My Frozen Shrimp Smells Fishy: The Potential Cause and Steps To Take

My Frozen Shrimp Smells Fishy: The Potential Cause and Steps To Take

Frozen shrimp is a game-changer. It lasts for up to one year in the freezer. It can taste just as fresh as fresh-caught shrimp if stored correctly. And you can purchase once and use the same bag for multiple dishes over time. But what if my frozen shrimp smells fishy? Is it safe to eat?

In short, no, because frozen shrimp is likely spoiled if it smells foul or overly fishy. We will dive into this subject further throughout this post.

Shrimp is among the most delicious and healthiest seafood options out there. It boasts a stellar nutritional profile, featuring vitamins and immune-boosting antioxidants like astaxanthin, protein, selenium, and Vitamin B12.  

Plus, frozen shrimp can be fresher than raw shrimp since the crustaceans are immediately put on ice after harvesting. Meanwhile, raw shrimp has time to spoil while sitting out, waiting for someone to purchase them for their next meal. So, not only do you have easy access to low-fat shrimp for meals, but they may be even fresher than what you would find behind the counter at your local fish market.

Today, we will cover what causes your frozen shrimp to smell fishy and what steps to take after making this discovery. We hope that this newfound knowledge will help our readers avoid eating spoiled seafood in the future.

We cover the following items in this post:

Is Shrimp Supposed To Smell Fishy?

A person peeling shrimp. Frozen shrimp smells fishy

Raw shrimp should never smell overly fishy or pungent. Instead, the shellfish should only have a light salt-water scent or none at all.

If you notice your shrimp does smell fishy, you may want to throw the batch out to ensure you are not eating spoiled seafood. The shellfish’s scent is the strongest indicator of its freshness (or lack thereof).

A common smell associated with spoiled shrimp is the smell of ammonia. That’s a clear sign the shrimp are expired.

Some other ways you can identify whether or not your shrimp is bad is through their color and texture. Spoiled shrimp will be much more slimy or slippery and may even have cracks on the outer shell.

In terms of color, fresh raw shrimp will appear translucent and light gray or white. When cooked, they should turn into a pink shade. So, if the shell is discolored or if you see black spots on the shrimp, they are most likely unsafe to eat.

Pair either of these indicators with an unpleasant, fishy smell, and you can be confident your shellfish has gone bad.

And if you decide to try a bite of it, it definitely shouldn’t taste fishy either!

More Specifically: Should Frozen Shrimp Smell Fishy?

Much like raw shrimp, your frozen shrimp should not smell fishy. Frozen shrimp typically has a mild scent.

So, suppose you notice a foul, sour odor upon opening a bag of frozen shrimp. In that case, you are better off discarding the entire thing.

How Can You Tell If Frozen Shrimp Has Gone Bad?

A bed of frozen shrimp. Frozen shrimp smells fishy

Below are some clear examples of when frozen shrimp has gone bad:

  • Freezer burn. It can hinder the shellfish’s quality and signal that the shellfish are spoiled. 
  • Bendable shrimp. If they are not completely frozen and feel malleable, it’s likely they’ve gone bad.
  • The expiration date. This one seems obvious, but people can often overlook it! If the freezer is cold enough, the shrimp can exceed this date. However, sometimes it’s best to be cautious with older seafood.
  • An open or ripped bag. If the bag the shrimp come in seems to have been opened or ripped in any area, it’s best to avoid the shrimp within it.

Can Frozen Shrimp Go Bad In The Freezer?

Yes, but it’s not common.

Foods, like shrimp, frozen at the FDA-recommended level of 0° F (-18° C) will remain safe for extended periods of time. The FDA notes that food stored at this temperature, and packaged correctly, should remain safe indefinitely as it will stop new bacteria from growing.

However, the FDA also notes that the quality of the food will decline the longer the food is kept frozen. The following can be affected:

  • Flavor
  • Odor
  • Color
  • Juiciness
  • Tenderness

We recommend eating your frozen shrimp within three to six months to attain the shrimp’s optimal flavor and texture.

How Do You Get The Fishy Smell Out Of Frozen Shrimp?

First, you must determine if you believe the shrimp has gone bad. And we’re risk-averse here, so we recommend getting different shrimp first and foremost!

However, if you feel it may still be salvageable, you can soak the shrimp in milk for about a half-hour before cooking it.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Shrimp?

Thawed shrimp. Frozen shrimp smells fishy

Quite a few things can happen when you eat bad shrimp. For starters, you can wake up with a mean stomachache after eating spoiled shellfish.

You can even get shellfish poisoning from consuming bad shrimp, which causes harmful symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting (gross, right?). According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are a few different types of shellfish poisoning, including:

  • Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) – The rarest form of shellfish poisoning that occurs when seafood is contaminated with domoic acid. It causes gastrointestinal discomfort, memory loss, headaches, and at times, cognitive impairment.
  • Diarrheic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) – A type of shellfish poisoning in which you will experience abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. While shrimp can be contaminated by okadaic acids that cause DSP, it is typically found in mollusks like clams, mussels, or scallops.
  • Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) – Causes a neurological reaction and respiratory irritation when the shellfish are contaminated with brevotoxins. NSP occurs more in the Western Hemisphere, particularly from shellfish sourced from the Gulf of Mexico and the United States’ Southeastern Coast.
  • Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) – The most dangerous yet most common form of shellfish poisoning in which your body can experience headaches, numbness, tingling, nausea, and flaccid paralysis, among other symptoms. This usually results from consuming shellfish contaminated with saxitoxins – the best-known paralytic shellfish toxin (PST).

Since we are sure most of you would like to avoid getting shellfish poisoning, it is crucial to discard any frozen shrimps with a foul odor!

Final Thoughts: My Frozen Shrimp Smells Fishy and What To Do About It

In summary, stay far, far away from smelly shrimp.

When your frozen shrimp has a pungent fishy scent, it is best to toss it and order your favorite takeout meal instead. While wasting food may seem wrong or unsustainable, it would be ten times worse to accidentally consume spoiled shrimp and wake up the following day with shellfish poisoning.

Thus, you should avoid consuming any variety of frozen or raw shrimp that smells fishy.