Guide to EEC Freshness Grades

In order to be placed in grade E, A, B or Unfit (C) the fish should possess the following characteristics. The descriptive terms are meant to be guides and not all the characteristics described will necessarily occur together in every fish. Gill odours are particularly discriminatory.

White fish: cod, saithe, haddock, whiting plaice redfish ling hake 

    E A B Unit(C)
Skin   bright; shining; iridescent (not redfish) or opalescent; no bleaching waxy; slight loss of bloom; very slight bleaching dull; dull; gritty; marked bleaching and shrinkage
Outer slime   transparent; water white milky yellowish-grey; some clotting yellow-brown; very clotted and thick
Eyes   convex; black pupil; translucent cornea plane; slightly opaque pupil; slightly opalescent slightly concave; grey pupil; opaque cornea completely sunken; grey pupil opaque discoloured cornea
Gills   dark red or bright red; mucus translucent red or pink; mucus slightly opaque  brown/grey and bleached; mucus opaque and thick brown or bleached;  mucus yellowish grey and clotted   
Peritoneum (in gutted fish)   glossy; brilliant; difficult to tear from flesh slightly dull; difficult to tear from flesh gritty; faily easy to tear from flesh gritty; easily torn from flesh
Gill and internal odours all except plaice fresh; seaweedy; shellfishy no odour; neutral odour; trace musty, mousy, milky, capryllic, garlic or peppery definite musty, mousy, milky, capryllic, garlic or peppery; bready; malty; beery; lactic; slightly sour acetic: butyric; fruity; turnipy; amines; sulphide; faecal
Gill and internal odours plaice fresh oil; metallic; fresh-cut grass; earthy; peppery oily; seaweedy; aromatic; trace musty, mousy, or critic oily; definite musty, mousy, or critic; bready; malty; beery; slightly rancid; painty muddy; grassy; fruity; acetic; butyric, rancid; amines; sulphide; faecal


  E A B Unit(c)
Eyes convex; very bright and iridescent; narrow pupils convex to flat; green; clear but some loss of  brightness and irridescence; oval pupils flat to sunken; some yellowing; slithgly cloudy sunken; yellow; cloudy
Appearance in or partly in rigor; small amount of clear slime on skin loss of rigor; no slime on skin and particularly no slime in mouth or at gill openings sticky slime in  copious slime in mouth and gill openings; obvious flattering of snout
Odour fresh marine ordourless or slightly musty; not ammoniacal ammoniacal; sour very  ammoniacal; very sour


  E A B Unit(c)
Skin full bloom; bright; shining; iridescent; clean slight dullness and loss of bloom  difinite dullness and loss of bloom dull; no bloom 
Outer slime transparent or water white milky; slight browning brownish brown
Gills covers silvery silvery; slight browning; slight bright red blood stain  some browning and blood staining very brown and  blood stained 
Eyes convex plane slightly concave concave; sunken
Firmness very stiff and firm fairly stiff and firm stiffness nearly absent, fairly soft soft or very soft
Gill odours fresh seaweedy less fresh seaweedy, slight oily slight stale seaweedy; definite oily; trace or slight H2S (sulphide), "salt cured" or rancid oil definite H2S (sulphide); rancid oil; amines; faecal; sour


  E A B Unit(c)
Skin strong blue and turquoise colours; iridescence over all body; well defined lateral line; reticulations on upper surface; clear distinction between upper and lower surfaces loss of bright colours with fading of reticulations; pale golden tinge on lower surface golden tinge over all body; skin wrinkles on flexing; washed-out appearance of colours; patchy iridescence yellow slime; little distinction between upper and lower surfaces
Texture of body stiff firm some softening limp and floppy
Eyes bulging with protruding lens; shiny jet black/blue pupil with metallic brown iris; transparant eye cap convex; slight clouding of lens and wrinkling of iris; clouding of eye cap plane; cloudy lens with black specks in iris; pale golden eye cap sunken eye covered  with yellow slime 
Gills appearance uniformly dark red/purple with free blood and water clear slime loss of colour with red/brown slime; pale margins to gills further loss of colour with patchy bleaching; increase in red/brown slime bleached; thick yellow slime
Gill odour fresh seaweed; sharp; halogens; pepper; fresh-cut grass; metallic;blood; fresh, sweet oil dull; muddy; musty mousy; cardboard; fish oil yeast; sour rotten fruit; "wet dogs"; old grass cuttings; strong oily compost heap; rotten turnips; sour cheese; ammonia; sulphides; rancid oil