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Archived - Seafood

This page has been archived

This page was archived due to the coming into force of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. Archived information is provided for reference, research or record-keeping purposes only. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. For current information visit Food.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors the quality, net quantity, packaging, labelling and advertising of fresh and frozen seafood sold at retail. Retailers are responsible for ensuring that the fish and fish products, mollusks and crustaceans they offer for sale are properly packaged and labelled, and have the full net quantity declared.


  1. Products pre-packaged on the retail premises must be marked with a declaration of net quantity, the common name or species, and the retailer's name and full address.
  2. Pre-packaged fresh or previously frozen seafood, having a durable life of 90 days or less, when packaged at retail, must be labelled with either:
    1. the "packaged on" date, and
    2. the durable life of the food either on the label or on a poster next to the food; OR
    3. a "best before" date, and
    4. storage instructions if the food requires storage conditions that differ from normal room temperature.

    *Foods which bear a packaging date and are repackaged by a retailer must employ the original packaging date which was applied when the product was first packed or weighed.

  3. If a product that has been frozen is thawed prior to sale, the words "previously frozen" must be indicated either on the label (if packaged) near the name of the product in letters at least as legible and conspicuous as those used in the common name, anywhere on the main part of the label in letters at least 6.4 mm (1/4 of an inch) high, or on a legible, prominently displayed sign.
  4. Kamaboko products (processed fish which is manufactured to imitate other seafood such as crab, shrimp, etc.) must be correctly labelled as such. For example, a kamaboko product that resembles crab legs cannot be labelled "Crab Legs." The common name of these products must be adequately descriptive ("Imitation Crab Legs", "Crab-Flavoured Pollock," etc.); a trade name such as "Sea Legs" is not sufficient.

When kamaboko products are used as ingredients in other foods such as salads, the name of the final food must reflect this usage, e.g. a salad made with a kamaboko product resembling crabmeat cannot be called Crabmeat Salad; it may, however, be called Seafood Salad, Imitation Crabmeat Salad, etc.


  1. Fresh whole fish should be buried in crushed ice and stored in a refrigerator maintained at -1.0°C. Lower temperatures may slowly freeze the surface of fresh fish, and higher temperatures will rapidly increase the rate of spoilage. Ice will ensure that heat is removed from fresh fish rapidly and will prevent the surface of the fish from drying out.
  2. Fish fillets should not be allowed to come into direct contact with ice.
  3. Even under ideal storage and display conditions, fresh fish will retain acceptable quality for only a few days after arrival at the retailer's.
  4. Thawed fish should be treated in the same way as fresh fish.
  5. Frozen fish should be kept at -18°C or lower. Although fish such as cod, haddock, pike and smelt may be kept at -18°C for six months, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and lake trout should not be kept frozen for longer than two months. Shellfish may be kept at -18°C for two to four months.
  6. The temperature of all frozen fish storage facilities should be checked frequently, as freezer cabinets may fail to maintain product at -18°C or lower if the cabinet is overloaded, if product placement prevents proper air circulation, if the thermostat is improperly placed, if defrost cycles are too long, or if the freezer is faulty.
  7. It is important to use appropriate detergents and disinfectants to keep fish contact surfaces sanitary. Unsanitary conditions will lead to accelerated product spoilage and may cause food poisoning.
  8. To avoid cross-contamination (such as the transfer of salmonella from poultry to fish), all equipment used for processing meat or poultry should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before it is used to process seafood.
  9. Canned anchovies (a semi-preserved product) must be kept refrigerated.
  10. To avoid possible food poisoning, do not accept or offer for sale cans of seafood which have been dented or otherwise damaged in any way.
  11. Packaging materials used to pack oysters at retail must allow for the circulation of air.
  12. Buy only from reputable suppliers and check all products when received.
  13. Buy only quantities of fresh fish that can be sold within a few days.
  14. Ensure proper stock rotation.
  15. Encourage truckers to maintain the temperature of fresh product at or near O°C and that of frozen product at -18°C or lower.
  16. Glaze whole fish with ice if it is to be kept frozen for more than a short time.
  17. Thaw frozen fish in drip trays in refrigerated areas. Moisture released during thawing, if not drained off, will encourage the growth of micro-organisms and will result in a soggy product.
  18. Avoid freezing fish after its quality has deteriorated. Poor-quality fresh fish can only result in an unsatisfactory frozen product and consumer complaints.
  19. Do not thaw battered or breaded fish products.
  20. F.A.S. or S.E.M are the acronyms for "Frozen at Sea," and "Surgelé en mer." As the term indicates, the fish is frozen right on the ship at sea, then thawed for handling upon its arrival at processing plants. When these products are delivered to food outlets, either the invoice accompanying them or the shipping containers will be marked "F.A.S." or "S.E.M".

Net Quantity

Food retailers are responsible for ensuring that, within prescribed tolerances, prepackaged food products which they offer for sale contain the net quantity declared on the label. This is a requirement of Section 7 of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.

Prepackaged marine products are subject to this Act. This being the case, when determining the net quantity for such products, it is important to remember that the declared net quantity includes only the weight of the product exclusive of the tare. Net quantity declaration is determined by using a "dry tare" method. In other words, the declared net quantity equals the gross weight of the product less the dry tare weight, except that any ice or ice glaze on frozen fish or marine products is also considered to be part of the tare. Dry tare includes such items as packaging material (e.g. foam tray, wrapping film, carton, etc.), dry soaker pads, labels, string, netting, wax, plastic wrap etc.

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