Quality check - All seafood

Seafood is a perishable food. The moment it is harvested its quality is at its highest. Producers are aware of this and take measures to maintain this quality, either through storing the seafood on ice, freezing it, or keeping it alive.

The Australian Seafood Quality Index (AQI) manual is an accurate method for measuring changes in chilled seafood through the whole chain, from the point of harvest through transport, auction, distribution and sale. It was developed by Sydney Fish Market (SFM) based on work from within Australia and overseas.

It provides highly reliable way to assess seafood quality. The Quality Checklist provided below provides a simplified overview that will help seafood consumers choose their seafood.

Quality checklist

Appearance

Check

Higher quality

Lesser quality

Comment

Physical damage Undamaged external surfaces (e.g. eyes, fins, mouth, scales, shells, claws or legs are intact) Some physical damage visible (e.g. broken tail or some bruising) and/or dried out external surface Damage is usually caused by rough handling, which may result in lower flesh quality.. Curled or dried-out seafood can result from freezing.
Foreign matter No foreign matter present Any foreign matter (such as sand, mud, seaweed, grease, insects, cigarette ash, etc.) on external surface or gills, or in body cavities (must be able to be removed) Foreign matter such as physical contamination can also be a safety issue.
Overall appearance Glossy, shiny, moist Dull, washed out (whitening of surface slime) Most freshwater finfish have more natural surface slime than marine species.
Colour Bright, matching the species' natural colour; slime clear if present Faded, unnatural, blotchy; slime turning white Blotching can occur through poor handling at harvest.
Firmness Firm-looking flesh; shell intact Indentations or depressions in flesh; shell broken Rigor (stiffness) or non-rigor may be present in whole finfish.
Packaging Intact; plainly labelled to identify product Damaged; poorly labelled

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Odour

Check

Higher quality

Lesser quality

Comment

Fresh sea smell, no unpleasant odour

A distinct "fishy" smell; slight ammonia and/or garlic smell

Sharks and rays, in particular, can develop a strong ammonia smell if handled incorrectly. They may need to be discarded.
The natural odours of species differ.

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Texture

Check

Higher quality

Lesser quality

Comment

Moist, firm and elastic (springs back quickly when pressed lightly) Slight tears; loss of elasticity Some species are naturally softer than others.
Shortly after death, the soft body becomes stiff. This result of rigor mortis can last for hours. Decomposition starts after rigor mortis has finished, when the flesh relaxes.

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Taste

Check

Higher quality

Lesser quality

Comment

Flesh or other edible parts

Natural flavours

Most natural flavours still remain

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