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I was unable to get to fish mongers, and so bought 2 sealed packs of cod from the chilled section in a local supermarket (each pack had 2 loins, a total of 280g per pack). They were not purchased frozen.

I can't find the actual picture, but the packaging looks very similar to this (I've removed the make/producer)

enter image description here

The use by date is today and when I removed them from the fridge, I noticed a lot of liquid despite them being "sealed".

When I opened the package, each cod loin was in liquid.

I'm not a professional chef, but my understanding is that anything sitting in liquid is basically breeding ground for bacteria (hence why the advice is to defrost under running water).

I can't smell anything wrong with the fish - there is no fishy smell and the loins are white as one would expect.

Is there any way to tell if the food is spoiled or not before eating it?

As an additional question - does the fact there was so much liquid in each 280g pack of 2 loins (I would guess each pack had around 3 table spoons of liquid) suggest the fish was frozen?

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Fish is tricky because the smell does not come from bacteria but from degrading enzymes. Cod tends to smell fairly early while being perfectly good to eat.

More generally for food to spoil you need water, warmth, a nutrient and oxygen (in most situations),so in the case of your fish it is likely to be good to eat, being vacuum packed and chilled.

The water in the pack can come from thawing or from 'weak flesh' (eg farmed fish). When this happens to me, I pat it dry with a paper towel and then salt it lightly on all sides as this will firm up the flesh after 10 minutes or so.

Obviously nothing replaces buying a whole fish you've looked at 'in the eyes' and butcher it yourself but we all have to deal with packed fish every now and then...

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I guess it's impossible to say yes or no as to whether it is safe.

However, I did manage to conclude it was not safe. Whilst waiting for responses, I left the fish out (out of the packet, towel dried and resting on the side in a cool room).

After those 30 minutes, the fish stunk! I don't know why it didn't smell straight away! I know when I open duck out of a packet, the instructions recommend to wait 30 minutes and that any smell will disappear so I'm guessing something similar happened here.

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