Seafood Industry Perspective 2nd Quarter 2016

Frozen Shrimp, How Old is Old?

By Dean Hogencamp, CFA

The primary question in the mindsof lenders regarding frozen shrimp has always been “How long does frozen shrimp last?” Unfortunately, no published report defines an expiration period for frozen shrimp,and neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Canadian Food Inspection Agency publish product guidelines related to the salability of aged frozen shrimp. Both agencies only require that packaging and production data be maintained. Product shelf life is ultimately determined based on product type and storage.

Product storage ultimately affects
shelf lives, as does any exposure to heat and/or thawing during production, transportation, or storage. Because most products imported and sold into the U.S. are typically stored in third-party freezer facilities, risk is mitigated; such facilities maintain adequate temperature controls, storing products at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, thereby limiting temperature fluctuations.

 Two primary types of shrimp are imported and sold into the U.S.: Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) and Block Frozen. IQF products typically yield shorter product shelf lives as they are more susceptible to changes in temperature; Block Frozen shrimp is frozen in blocksof ice and, therefore, yields a longer shelf life. IQF products exposed to temperature changes show signs of aging, including formation of ice crystals (evidence of freezer burn), product discoloration (spotting), and product degradation. 

Product packaging determines if “best use by” dates are required; retailers require “best use by” dates for products sold in retail packaging. Many large retailers require a “best use by” date of 18 months from date of packaging for IQF shrimp, with most requiring a minimum of six months’ shelf life remaining when the product is received in stores or distribution facilities. Foodservice and wholesale products typically do not require “best use by” dates for either IQF or Block Frozen shrimp. Overall findings, based on discussions with multiple companies, areas follows: IQF shrimp typically maintains a shelf life of approximately 24 months, whereas that of Block Frozen shrimp is in excess of 24 months. Both product types have been sold exceeding these timeframes, with mixed recoveries, depending on current market conditions and product age.


The information provided is based on Hilco’s industry expertise, discussions with industry personnel, and data
compiled from a variety of well respected sources including: Urner Barry;; and