Shrimp is a tasty delicacy enjoyed by many seafood lovers. They come fresh, frozen, and even cooked. Sometimes, raw shrimp exhibits white spots either on the shell or the meaty part.
There can be two causes of this, freezer burn or White spot syndrome (WSS). White spot syndrome is a highly contagious disease affecting crustaceans.
Shrimp, crab, and lobster are all susceptible to the white spot syndrome. The syndrome is very lethal, wiping out entire crustacean populations at a time.
In 1993, entire shrimp farming enterprises in China collapsed due to a widespread outbreak of WSS. If these spottings can mean such a lethal disease in shrimp, the burning question then is, is it safe to eat shrimp with white spots?
Yes, it is safe to eat shrimp with white spots. The two major causes of white spots, freezer burn, and white spot syndrome do not pose any risk to food safety or human health.
Read on to find out the best way to handle white spots on shrimp.
What Causes the White Spots on Shrimp?
There are three possible reasons why shrimp ends up having white spots.
1. Shrimp Freezer Burn
When shrimp are shelled and has white spots on the meaty part, it probably has freezer burn. Freezer burn happens due to changing freezer temperature or improper sealing.
It can also be caused by long storage in the freezer, about 6 months or more. The shrimp loses moisture as it dehydrates, leaving it tasteless, but it is safe to consume.
Cooking it with herbs and spices can help with the taste.
2. White Spot Disease
White spot syndrome is usually exhibited by white spots on the shell, not the flesh. Without any known cure for the disease, it is almost always 100% lethal to the crustaceans.
This means that it is actually very rare for affected shrimp to make it to the market. They die out in large numbers from the syndrome and are discarded.
However, if you do get shrimp with the tell-tale signs of WSS, you can still cook them. They are safe for human consumption.
3. White Glazing
During packaging, some packers coat shrimp in a white glaze. This is meant to help the shrimp maintain moisture when thawing.
Sometimes, shrimp are frozen in sugar and salt solution to add the glaze and make separation of the shrimps easier when thawing. This glaze is actually very hard to spot.
It thaws off immediately when the shrimp is out of the freezer, and you barely notice it. The glazing is a perfectly safe way to prepare the shrimp for packaging and poses no danger to human health.
Is It Normal for Shrimp to Have White Spots?
Raw fresh shrimp should be white and slightly transparent. This means that white spots on shrimp is not a normal occurrence.
You can easily tell when freezer burn is the cause of white spots on the shellfish because the shrimp will be dehydrated, tasteless, and chewy.
Some people choose to throw out freezer-burned shrimp due to lack of taste, but it is actually safe to eat. Additionally, since white spot syndrome is so deadly to the crustaceans, they rarely make it to your table.
Most of them die out, and selling dead shrimp is not a pleasant thing. If the white spots are caused by white spot syndrome, there will be no effect on taste.
Therefore, it may not be normal to have white spots on shrimp, but that does not affect the quality or taste of the shrimp.
How to Tell if Frozen Shrimp is Bad
Shrimp is highly perishable and will often get frozen straight from the fishing boats. It can go bad though, even when deeply frozen.
This may be due to fluctuating temperatures or prior contamination. As with any other seafood, this can pose serious health problems when ingested. Here are a few tips to help you tell if frozen shrimp has gone bad.
The first sign is an ammonia smell. The fishy smell is caused by the growth of bacteria in the shrimp. It is safe to discard the shrimp immediately.
Another sign of bad shrimp is the shell color. The yellow color could mean that the shrimp has been on the market longer than is recommended and the seller added sodium bi-sulfate to bleach the shells. This is used to disguise that the shrimp is old.
What to Do with Freezer Burnt Shrimp
Freezer burnt shrimp is common in houses that buy in bulk and freeze their produce. Shrimp left in the freezer for a long time may develop freezer burn.
It is advisable to check for signs of spoilage such as a fishy smell or other unusual signs but freeze-burnt shrimp is safe to eat.
The freeze burn takes away most of the shrimp’s moisture, leaving it dehydrated and chewy. The moisture lost also contains the flavor of the shrimp.
That’s why freeze-burnt shrimp is so tasteless. Utilize spices and herbs to cook the shrimp instead of throwing it out.
Read Also: Is Shrimp a Type of Fish? (Simply Explained)
How to Buy the Right Shrimp
Raw shrimp can be bought fresh or frozen. However, shrimp is highly perishable. It is better to buy frozen shrimp to ensure that it is safe.
Shrimp can also be on-shell or off-shell. For on-shell shrimp, the shell should be clear and clean with a pearl-like color. The shell should be glossy and firm.
If broken and slimy, the shrimp may be decomposing. If buying off-shell shrimp, the first tip is to check the color. Raw fish is white, almost transparent.
Discoloration may be an indication of spoilage. If buying shrimp with the head still on, another way to check for the right type is to check the eyes. They should be shiny.
If missing, shrunken, or dry, do not buy the shrimp. Bonus tip, the tastiest and healthiest shrimp are caught in the wild, rather than raised on shrimp farms.