Buying Seafood

Step up to the seafood counter or frozen fish case and you’ll see an enticing display of one type of seafood after another. How do you choose? How do you know if it’s safe, high-quality, or even sustainable? Read on to find out how we inspect seafood for safety in the United States, and learn how to choose quality, sustainable seafood.

Inspecting Seafood

Many state and federal agencies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Commerce work together to ensure that the seafood we buy is safe and wholesome. Seafood, just like milk, bread, and produce, are subject to the requirements of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, administered by the FDA. Under the FDA’s mandatory fish inspection program as well as voluntary quality inspection programs, the vast majority of seafood in the marketplace is safe to eat. LEARN MORE about how seafood is inspected in the United States to ensure it’s safe and high quality.

Choosing Quality

It’s pretty simple to choose quality, fresh seafood. Just use your senses - smell, sight, touch…and even common sense! First and foremost, buy seafood from knowledgeable, reputable dealers: those you trust with a known record of proper handling practices. Our seafood inspectors often say “the nose knows” - if a seafood counter or freezer case smells fishy, go somewhere else. Fresh, quality seafood should smell like the ocean, not sour or fishy.

Keep an eye out for general cleanliness and proper handling, too. Seafood should be properly iced and refrigerated or frozen. Also, go ahead and plan your menu for seafood, but wait until you are at the market before deciding the exact type of fish to buy. Here you will be able to select the highest quality items at the counter or in the freezer case. Once you’ve found a good source for your seafood, LEARN MORE guidelines about shopping for fresh and frozen seafood to ensure you are purchasing the best product possible.

Choosing Sustainable

Sustainable seafood is a hot topic these days. “Sustainability” is based on a simple principle - meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs; for example, using a resource but leaving some for the future. In terms of seafood, this means catching or farming seafood responsibly, with consideration for the long-term health of the environment and the livelihoods of the people that depend upon the environment. For example, U.S. seafood is wild-caught and farm-raised under strict regulations that work to keep the environment healthy, fish populations thriving, and our seafood industry on the job.

Choosing sustainable seafood can be challenging - how do you know the seafood at the market or on your menu came from sustainable sources? LEARN MORE about the seafood guides and ecolabels that have recently emerged to assist people with purchasing sustainable seafood, as well as a few general tips for making smart seafood choices.

Identifying and Combating Seafood Fraud

We're all aware of common types of fraud like identity theft and investment scams, but did you ever think you'd have to worry about being swindled with shrimp, snapper, or sea bass? When you purchase seafood, you expect that it will be what the label says it is. Unfortunately, studies and investigations are finding that this is not always the case—various types of "seafood fraud" are being committed along the seafood supply chain.

Seafood fraud happens for a variety of reasons, from simple misunderstanding or lack of information to blatantly deceiving consumers to increase profits, or even worse, laundering illegally harvested seafood. LEARN MORE about the types of seafood fraud and how it can affect fish, fishermen, fishmongers, and fish-eaters.

Detecting seafood fraud can be challenging—determining whether seafood is accurately labeled is not only difficult for consumers but for the experts, too. FIND OUT HOW regulators and industry are cracking down on seafood fraud using a growing suite of tools, from inspections and criminal investigations to traceability systems and genetic analysis.