The lowdown on shrimp labels


The lowdown on shrimp labels

Consumer Reports' guide to labels you can trust

Published: April 24, 2015 06:00 AM

Shopping for shrimp is confusing. Packages can have so many labels that it’s hard to know which ones to trust. One way to separate the best from the rest is to buy sustainably farmed or responsibly caught shrimp. We believe that your best choice is wild shrimp, especially those that have been responsibly caught in the U.S.

There are several reliable ways to find responsibly caught wild shrimp. One is to look for shrimp sold at Whole Foods Market, and another is to look for shrimp carrying the Marine Stewardship Council logo. You can also go to Monterey Bay Aquarium's and look for shrimp listed as a "Best Choice" or "Good Alternative." Other labels, such as those listed below, can help identify sustainably farmed shrimp.

Whether you buy wild or farmed, purchasing shrimp featuring one of these trustworthy labels will ensure that you’re buying the best shrimp for the planet—and ultimately for your health.

Read "How Safe Is Your Shrimp?," Consumer Reports' guide to choosing the healthiest, tastiest, and most responsibly sourced shrimp. Learn how to safely prepare shrimp. And read abour our calls for the federal government to make shrimp safer for American consumers.

Trust these labels

Indicates that wild shrimp are caught using sustainable fishing practices. That can include outfitting nets with devices that allow other animals to escape.

Indicates shrimp are raised without antibiotics and according to guidelines that protect the environment. This label also ensures that shrimp farms do not use forced labor. However, the guidelines permit the use of certain chemicals, including some pesticides, and don’t limit the number of shrimp in a pond.




Indicates that shrimp are farmed following guidelines that prohibit over-stocking of shrimp ponds and the use of chemicals, including antibiotics, pesticides, and disinfectants. Shrimp are fed food made of sustainably caught fish meal, and farms do not use forced labor.

Certifies that shrimp are raised in conditions that protect the environment, without anti­biotics, and with limited use of chemicals. But there’s no limit on the density of shrimp in ponds. This label is found only at Whole Foods Market stores.

Don't trust these labels

Environmentally aware

An easy claim to make, but it’s not backed by a consistent set of standards to ensure that shrimp were sustainably caught or farmed.


This term has no official definition for shrimp. Ignore it.

No antibiotics

On meat and poultry, this term means what it says, but when it comes to shrimp, the term is not defined by the FDA.

No hormones

There is no government or official definition for this term on shrimp.


There is no approved standard for organic seafood in the U.S.


There is no regulated definition of “sustainable.” Any seller can make this claim.

Turtle Safe

This claim is not backed by a consistent set of standards.

How much does your shrimp seller really know?

We wanted to find out what fishmongers really know about the shrimp they’re selling, so our mystery shoppers went shopping for shrimp near our Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters. Here are a few choice tidbits fish sellers told us:

We asked

The seller’s answer

The truth

“Are these shrimp organic?”

 “Yes, they’re organic.”

There are no organic standards for shrimp, or for any seafood, in the U.S.

“Why is wild shrimp more expensive?”

“Wild shrimp is more expensive because it’s better for you.”

According to our dietitians, farmed and wild shrimp have the same basic nutritional profile. But from a safety and sustainability standpoint, this fishmonger is right; our experts say that sustainably fished U.S. wild shrimp is the best choice.

“Why are antibiotics used in shrimp farming?”

“Antibiotics are used to make the shrimp taste better.”

Antibiotics are used to combat or prevent disease—but shouldn’t be.

“Should I wash my hands after handling raw shrimp?”

“No, you don’t have to wash your hands after handling shrimp.”

You should always wash your hands after touching raw shrimp. It can harbor bacteria that could make you sick.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the June 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


Funding for this project was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Any views expressed are those of Consumer Reports and its advocacy arm, Consumers Union, and do not necessarily reflect theviews of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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