Eating delicious, omega-3 rich salmon is a favorite way for me to get healthy protein in my diet. Like many people, I often buy vacuum-packed salmon to have on hand for easy weeknight meals. But I used to be unsure about how long vacuum-packed salmon stays fresh and if it’s safe to eat after the printed use-by date. After doing some research on this topic, I want to share what I’ve learned to help others determine if they can eat vacuum-packed salmon after the use by date or if it’s better to just toss it out.
What is the Use-By Date on Vacuum-Packed Salmon?
The use-by date printed on vacuum-packed salmon indicates the last recommended day it should be eaten for food safety. Salmon, like any perishable food, has a limited shelf life. The use-by date accounts for the potential for bacteria like Listeria or Salmonella to grow to unsafe levels in the salmon over time, even if properly stored.
Vacuum-packing removes the oxygen from inside the package, which slows down bacteria growth and food spoilage. This extends the shelf life of foods like salmon, compared to store wrapping. However, vacuum-packed salmon is still a perishable item that requires refrigeration and has a use-by date for food safety.
The use-by date is set by the manufacturer based on product testing under proper storage temperatures. It’s always recommended to eat or freeze vacuum-packed salmon by this date for the best quality. Trying to eat vacuum-packed salmon even days after the use-by date is generally not worth the risk.
Is it Safe to Eat Vacuum-Packed Salmon after the Use-By Date?
Eating vacuum-packed salmon past its printed use-by date is not recommended for food safety. Even with vacuum-packing, bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes can grow over time and contaminate the raw salmon. Listeria in particular can grow at refrigerator temperatures.
Consuming contaminated, spoiled salmon can potentially lead to a foodborne illness. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever that set in within 12-72 hours after eating bad salmon. Certain groups like pregnant women, young children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to severe effects.
It’s always best to be cautious and throw out vacuum-packed salmon once it hits the use-by date stated on the package. The use-by date factors in potential bacterial growth, so foodborne pathogens may start multiplying faster if you keep the salmon longer. It’s just not worth getting sick over eating old salmon.
How to Properly Store Vacuum-Packed Salmon
To safely prolong the shelf life of vacuum-packed salmon, proper storage before opening the package is key. Here are some tips for storing vacuum-packed salmon:
- Keep it continuously refrigerated at 40°F or below. The cold temperature significantly slows bacteria growth.
- Don’t store the salmon in the refrigerator door shelves, where the temperature is less stable. Keep it on the lower shelves.
- Check that your refrigerator temperature is reaching 40°F. Use a thermometer and adjust as needed.
- Avoid exposing the salmon to temperature fluctuations. Don’t let it sit out at room temp.
- Check the package for damage before buying. Don’t purchase leaking packages.
Once you open the vacuum-packed salmon, it will lose the advantage of the oxygen-free environment. Plan to eat the salmon within 2-3 days for maximum freshness and food safety. Make sure to re-seal the package tightly or transfer the leftovers to an airtight container in the fridge.
Signs that Vacuum-Packed Salmon has Spoiled
Discard vacuum-packed salmon if you notice any signs of spoilage, even if the printed use-by date hasn’t passed yet. Relying on a date alone isn’t foolproof. The salmon could develop obvious spoilage before the use-by date if it wasn’t stored properly.
Look for these signs of spoiled, unsafe vacuum-packed salmon:
- Slimy texture – Salmon flesh should feel firm. Sliminess indicates bacterial growth.
- Fishy or ammonia odor – Fresh salmon has a mild scent. Foul odors signal spoilage.
- Discoloration – The flesh should look pink/orange. Graying, yellowing or brown spots are bad signs.
- White film on surface – This filmy residue indicates the growth of molds. Don’t eat moldy salmon.
Keep in mind harmful bacteria can multiply on salmon without any obvious signs of spoilage. When in doubt about the freshness, don’t risk getting food poisoning— just throw it out. It’s not worth tasting questionable salmon.
Safe Handling of Vacuum-Packed Salmon
Practicing proper food safety and hygiene will reduce your risk of illness when handling raw salmon, whether it’s vacuum-packed or not:
- Refrigerate salmon right away, never leaving it out longer than 2 hours.
- Keep raw salmon sealed until ready to use. Don’t cross-contaminate.
- Wash hands and surfaces before and after touching raw salmon.
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for salmon prep.
- Cook salmon to an internal temperature of 145°F to kill bacteria.
- Refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours. Don’t leave out.
Following safe food practices gives you a margin of error if the salmon isn’t quite as fresh. But it’s still wise respect the use-by date for vacuum-packed salmon.
Alternatives if Vacuum-Packed Salmon is Past Use-By Date
If you discover your vacuum-packed salmon is already beyond its printed use-by date, play it safe and toss it out. The potential consequences of foodborne illness are too severe to risk eating spoiled salmon to avoid wasting food.
Here are some alternatives if you need to discard old, past-date vacuum-packed salmon:
- Buy a fresh package of salmon – Replace the old salmon with a newly packaged filet or fillets well before their use-by dates.
- Freeze extra salmon for longer storage – Freeze vacuum-packed salmon in serving portions before the use-by date so it lasts longer in the freezer. Thaw safely before cooking.
- Substitute different proteins in recipes – Swap out salmon with chicken, tofu, beans, lentils or another favorite protein source.
- Use a different fish – Try fresh trout, cod or another favorite fish instead of questionable salmon.
Discarding food can feel wasteful. But eating spoiled salmon is never worth the health risks. Remember, safety first! Pay attention to use-by dates and discard vacuum-packed salmon once it’s past date, even if unopened. Trust the use-by date, and if in doubt, throw it out. Stay healthy by safely enjoying your salmon before its time is up.
Hi, I’m Ben Holland. I love cooking, traveling, and spending time with my family! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes, travel tips, and stories about my adventures with my wife and kids.