Can you eat 2 year old frozen fish?

In this brief article, we will answer the question “Can you eat 2 year old frozen fish?”, list down ways to thaw frozen fish, and discuss food poisoning that you can get from eating spoiled or contaminated fish. 

Can you eat 2 year old frozen fish?

Yes, you can eat 2 year old frozen fish given that it was stored at 0 degree without any fluctuations. According to USDA guidelines, any meat stored at 0 degree or lesser temperature will be good to eat indefinitely. However, the fish may lose its texture and flavor. So, for best results, it should be consumed within 3-8 months (2).

Shellfish, on the other hand, is best used within 3-12 months for optimum flavor. These timelines are for raw and uncooked fish. Cooked fish will last for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator and in the freezer for about 1-23 months. 

German consumers purchase large quantities of frozen fish, fish preserves and marinades followed by crustaceans, smoked fish and fresh fish. Per capita consumption of seafood is about 14.1 kg per annum, below the world average consumption of 21.8 kg per annum. As such, there is potential for market growth.9 The top four consumed fish species in Germany include salmon, the leading species with 21% of total consumption, followed by Alaska pollock (18%), herring (16%), and tuna (14%). More than half of seafood purchases are from supermarkets and discount outlets that lack fresh fish counters (1).

If the fish is store bought and in a vacuum sealed bag then it is much safer to eat later because vacuum would further minimize bacterial growth. Vacuum packaging represents a static form of hypobaric storage which is widely applied in the food industry due to its effectiveness in reducing oxidative reaction in the product at relatively low cost. Studies show that individually frozen fish rapidly develop oxidative off flavors when stored without packaging at -12°C, but both vacuum packaging in barrier films and ice glazing significantly suppressed development of oxidized flavors through 24 weeks of storage (3).

How to properly thaw frozen fish?

The main concern while thawing fish is that bacteria growth should be minimized. Bacteria are opportunistic organisms so any fluctuation in temperature and even a minor rise in temperature will make them grow. Freezing prevents the growth of pathogens, however, most pathogenic microorganisms may survive frozen storage, recover during thawing and then grow and/or produce toxins in the food, if conditions are favorable (4).

We will list down a few ways to properly and quickly defrost fish

Place it in the refrigerator

You can place the fish directly from the freezer and into the refrigerator overnight. You should take care of the fact that it might leak so place it in a resealable bag before placing it in the fridge. This also contains the smell. If your fish was already frozen in a vacuum bag then you do not need to repeat this step. 

This method is safe and easy given that you remember to place the meat a day before you need to cook it. If the meat is cut in thin strips, it can be placed in the fridge in the morning and removed at night for cooking it for dinner.

Place it under running water

Place the fish under running cold water. The water should not be warm or hot at all. This method should only be attempted with the fish placed in a resealable plastic bag. If it’s not covered, it can become waterlogged. 

Also, if the water is warm or hot, it will end up cooking some parts of the fish and also ruin its texture. It is also a safety hazard.

Place it in the sink

Alternatively, you can also fill the sink or a bowl with cold water and place the fish inside it. Again, the fish should be placed in a resealable plastic bag to avoid waterlogging. This method will take a little longer but it works. 

Food poisoning from fish

Like any other spoiled or contaminated food, fish can also cause food poisoning. Fish should never be left out for more than 2 hours because then it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. 

The same is true for frozen fish. If you wish to store fish for longer periods of time, it should be frozen uniformly at 0 degree and then defrosted properly in the ways described above.

Fish should not be taken out during this time and refrozen. For this reason, we recommend you to store fish in smaller portions in resealable bags so you only take out one bag for cooking and use all of the fish without the need for refreezing the rest of it.

Food poisoning can occur if you eat contaminated fish. The symptoms can range from mild to moderate depending on the amount of bacteria ingested. The symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, malaise, headache, and loss of appetite (5).

Continuous vomiting can lead to weakness and dehydration which almost always requires hospitalization. So it is important to take care of what you eat before you eat it. 

Other FAQs about Fish that you may be interested in.

6 ways to preserve fish

Why do you eat 7 fish on Christmas eve?

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In this brief article, we answered the question “Can you eat 2 year old frozen fish?”, listed down ways to thaw frozen fish, and discussed food poisoning that you can get from eating spoiled or contaminated fish.


  1. Bittmann, Thomas, Julia Bronnmann, and Daniel V. Gordon. Product differentiation and dynamics of cost pass-through in the German fish market: An error-correction-distance measure approach. J Commod Mark, 2020, 19, 100105.  
  2. Freezing and Food Safety. US Department of Agriculture. 2013.
  3. Purushotam, Kumar, and Ganguly Subha. Role of vacuum packaging in increasing shelf-life in fish processing technology. Asian J Bio Sci, 2014, 9, 109-112.
  4. EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ), et al. Guidance on date marking and related food information: part 2 (food information). EFSA Journal, 2021, 19, e06510.
  5. Selecting and Serving Fresh and Frozen Seafood Safely. US Department of Agriculture.