What is the best way to store dried fish?

Question: We need advice on storing dried fish. The product arrives in cartons (without poly bags) and the stock rotation is about 2-3 months. Typically, they are imported in reefer containers and are dry and salted. Our intention is to store these products in a separate room at +2°C to +4°C. What are the challenges we would face? And how is this product generally stored in developed countries?

Answer: These products should be stored in a separate room from other food products. This will minimize potential cross-contamination and odor transfer to and from other food products.

The storage temperatures are fine, but I would recommend keeping the temperature closer to +2°C than +4°C. I would also recommend placing a plastic poly film over the top of the fish in the box. This will help to reduce moisture pick-up and cross-contamination.

The main causes of spoilage in storage are molds, bacteria, insect infestation, rancidity, discoloration, and texture changes. The approach is to follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs) in the warehouse to prevent cross-contamination with bacteria and prevent insect infestations.

These deteriorative changes are generally most severe in climates with high humidity, and one of the main aims in good storage is to prevent the dried product from taking up water again. A few molds can grow at a relative humidity of 65 percent, and most molds grow rapidly at a relative humidity of 75 percent.  Molds occur on dried and salted fish whenever there is enough water to support their growth. Even in heavily salted products, molds can occur when the surface of the fish becomes damp.

Dried fatty fish products can also become discolored, and acquire rancid odor and flavors in storage, and thus, the First In First Out (FIFO) method is recommended to reduced storage time and minimize deleterious changes.

Answer provided by WFLO Scientific Advisory Council Chairman Dr. Michael Jahncke.

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