Can out-of-date fish make you sick? (+5 Tips)

In this article, we will answer the question “Can out-of-date fish make you sick?”, and how to tell If the fish has gone bad?

Can out-of-date fish make you sick?

Yes, out-of-date fish can make you sick. Fish usually comes with a sell-by date on the label. Do not keep fish refrigerated for more than 1-2 days past this date. To delay the expiry of the fish, freezing is a good option. If the fish comes with a use-by date, do not consume fish past this date.

How to tell If the fish has gone bad?

Reading the sell-by date 

  • Store-Bought or homemade cooked fish will last longer than raw fish. Once the cooked fish is 5-6 days past the sell-by date while It sits in the fridge in an air-tight container, It has gone bad.
  • For delaying the expiry of cooked fish, freezing is the way to go.
  • After cooking the raw store-bought fish, If you are not going to consume it and want to refrigerate it, make sure you label the container with the same sell-by date printed on its original package.
  • Freezing any kind of fish will extend its shelf-life to 6-9 months except for smoked salmon which only lasts 3-4 months even in the freezer.

Inspecting the fish 

  • The white lines in the meat, especially salmon indicate freshness and firmness. In case these lines vanish completely or turn grey, It is an indication the meat is not very fresh.
  • If the salmon feels firm upon touching, It is fresh. If It feels soft, mushy, or squishy, It has gone bad. This is often accompanied by the disappearance of the white lines on the meat.
  • Salmon should have a light link color. If It develops discolored patches whether darker or white-ish in nature, It has gone bad.

How long does fish last?

In the pantry In the fridge In the freezer
Past Printed Date Past Printed DatePast Printed Date
Salmon 1-2 days 6-9 months
Cod 1-2 days 6-9 months
Halibut 1-2 days 6-9 months
Ono 1-2 days 6-9 months
Tilapia 1-2 days 6-9 months
Catfish 1-2 days 6-9 months
Cooked fish 5-6 days 6-9 months
Smoked salmon 5-7 days 3-6 months 
Canned tuna 2-5 years 5-7 days 
Sardines 2-5 years5-7 days 

Other FAQs about Fish which you may be interested in.

Can you eat carp?

Can you get sick from eating dead crawfish?

How to store fish?

In the Refrigerator

Wash and clean your fish with cold water and pat dry it using a clean cloth or a paper towel.

Wrap the fish in cling film or aluminum foil and It will be good in the fridge for two days.

Large pieces of fish can last a day more but small pieces spoil rapidly due to an increased surface area. Fish with a greater fat content like trout, salmon, tuna spoil rapidly as compared to walleye and panfish.

In the Freezer

Frozen fish can stay fresh for 3-12 months in the freezer. However, fish might freeze Burn or lose flavor If not stored properly or kept for too long.

Wash, clean, and dry your fish and cover it with cling film/plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. Using airtight containers, freezer wraps, or heavily waxed paper to keep the portion size fish fillets is preferred instead of using a simple cling film wrap.

You could also marinate the fish fillets with your favorite spices before freezing. This reduces the chances of freeze burn or chilling injury.

Signs of spoilage 

A spoiled fish should smell bad(fishy) and appear much slimmer than it initially was. Fresh fish fillets appear shiny. 

If the fish bloodline appears brown instead of bright red, the quality has clearly deteriorated. It may not be unsafe at this point but If you are quality conscious you might want to discard it.

How to pickle fish?

Pickling is a simple method to preserve fish for 1 to 2 months in the refrigerator

  • Keep the fish in the brine twice, once in weak brine for an hour and use a strong brine for the second time
  • In a pot, boil water with white vinegar and your favorite whole spices like mustard seeds, whole clove, pepper, and onions.
  • Simmer the fish fillets in the boiling water just until it starts to become not overcook.
  • Take out this mixture in a broad-faced pan and let it cool in the refrigerator.
  • Now add the fish to sterilized glass jars. Strain the vinegar water into the jar seal the lid and keep it in the fridge.


In this article, we answered the question “Can out-of-date fish make you sick?”, and how to tell If the fish has gone bad?



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