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I just bought shrimp (previously frozen) at the market. How long before I have to cook it? Once it's cooked, how long will it last in the refrigerator?

If the shrimp that you purchased were shrink-wrapped, packaged, and labeled, be sure to check on the label for "Sell-By," "Use-By," or "Best if Used By" date. While these dates are presented voluntarily in the case of most products (with the exception of baby foods and a few additional foods), they are very helpful when available. The "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product, and you should always buy on or before this date. Consumption no later than one or two days after the "Sell-By" date is the United States Department of Agriculture's recommended safety period for consumption in the case of fish.

If there is no "Sell-By" date, or if your shrimp were not purchased prepackaged, one to two days after purchase would still be the safety window for cooking. Don't forget to keep them cold in the refrigerator.

As the temperature of most refrigerators is slightly warmer than ideal for storing seafood, in order to ensure maximum freshness and quality, it is important to use special storage methods to create the optimal temperature for holding the shrimp. One of the easiest ways to do this is to place the shrimp in a plastic zip-lock bag and put it in a big bowl and cover it with ice. Store it in the refrigerator and replenish ice one or two times per day.

Once cooked, your shrimp should be consumed within a 24-hour period of time. While it would be possible to refreeze the cooked shrimp and extend their shelf life even further by doing so, you'd be compromising both taste and nutrition.

For more information on this topic, please see:

References:

Mejlholm O, Boknaes N, and Dalgaard P. . Shelf life and safety aspects of chilled cooked and peeled shrimps (Pandalus borealis) in modified atmosphere packaging. J Appl Microbiol.2005; 99(1):66-76.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2007). Food Product Dating Fact Sheet. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). January 4, 2007 update. Available online at:

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Food_Product_Dating/index.asp

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