Black bits on salmon may just be harmless scales

Firm black bits on a salmon fillet could be wayward scales and are nothing to worry about it

What you see: Unappealing black bits on the surface of your salmon fillet What it is: Some wayward scales from when the fish was prepped Eat or toss: Just rinse or pick off the scales and prepare your salmon as usual

The story:

“Scales have a way of getting in places you wouldn’t expect,” says Brian Himelbloom, seafood specialist at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center in Alaska.

While fish processors use a lot of water and ice to constantly clear off surfaces, it’s easy for the little flecks to stick to everything from cutting boards to workers’ clothing, or even this salmon fillet. Himelbloom says that quality control should have caught the dark shimmery bits before this cut got out the door, but it’s “not a real safety problem, it’s more aesthetics.”**

The U.S. government’s seafood standard considers a small amount of stray scales as a minor defect that affects appearance, not eating quality.

So, no reason to scale back (sorry, not sorry) your dinner plans. Go ahead and remove the scales and eat!

**Speaking of aesthetics, in other circumstances, you might consider scales to be rather pretty. Check your lipstick and nail polish for the ingredient guanine. That’s fancy-talk for “fish scales,” which add shimmer to cosmetics.

SOURCES: Brian Himelbloom - Associate Professor, Seafood Science and Technology. College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center. University of Alaska, Fairbanks

United States Standards for Grading of Fish Fillets. USDC/NOAA. Seafood Inspection Program.

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