Fish Quality

Fish processors benefit from the technical services of ILVO’s fish quality lab. Sensory, physical and chemical methods are used to determine the quality of fish products.


Notable accomplishments include the analytics for determining fish quality and determining the freshness of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

The Fish Quality lab’s current research focuses on “amines” such as histamine, putrescine and cadaverine. The final result of this unique collaboration of more than 10 Europeans labs is an official reference method for biogene amines in fish.

This group has developed several schemas to determine the freshness of fish using the Quality Index Method (KIM-score). The KIM method is a sensory method for determining freshness. This method separately determines various freshness parameters (smell, color, gills, mucus, texture, etc.) in a specific order. Each parameter is scored from O (good) to 3 (bad). The sum of all scores results in the final KIM score. Every parameter is weighed equally which prevents that one sole parameter will be responsible for rejection of a batch of fish. Small differences in assigning scores to any given parameter do not influence the final KIM score.

The lower the KIM score, the fresher the fish. The total KIM score rises linearly according to the time it is stored one ice, as determined by a large amount of experimental data. This makes it possible to determine freshness in terms of “days stored on ice”. In this way, it is even possible to predict the shelf life of the product, which is useful information for fish sales. This technique has been successfully implemented in the Flemish Fish Auction.

Equipment to replace the KIM score is now being tested. The so-called “Sequid” has been tested for the last two years but is not yet accurate enough to replace the KIM score for the objective determination of freshness of fish.

North sea crabs are being tested to determine how and where they store biotoxins in their bodies. In the ILVO labs, the crabs are exposed to DSP and ASP, two common biotoxins. We also examine how these toxins evolve when the crabs are processed for consumption.


Analyses of fish quality can be performed at ILVO.
We also give training and educational sessions about fish quality. The Flemish Fish Auction certification personnel have received training in using the KIM score and fishery personnel have also received a fish quality training.
The Fish2Know project currently invites hotel and restaurant schools to the Flemish Fish Auction, where they participate in a tour, an informational session about fish quality, and also fillet and prepare fish.


Karen Bekaert, Sabrine Derveaux, Daphné Deloof, Johan Robbens, Geertrui Vlaemynck