The capacity of the natural antioxidant to retard oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids in hake (Merluccius merluccius) muscle was investigated. Hake fillets were packaged in low-density polyethylene with the natural antioxidant (sample C1 = 7 mg/dm2 film and sample C2 = 24 mg/dm2 film) or without the antioxidant (control sample) and frozen for 12 months at −20°C. The results confirm the efficacy of an active packaging with a natural antioxidant derived from barley husks to slow the progress of lipid hydrolysis and increase oxidative stability in hake muscle. Determination of peroxide value, conjugated dienes, free fatty acids, thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and anisidine value (AV) proved suitable for studying lipid hydrolysis and primary and secondary lipid oxidation over time. After 6 months of frozen storage, the TBARS levels were lower in hake packed with low-density polyethylene with the natural antioxidant (C1 and C2) than in the control sample; at month 12, the TBARS values of C1 and C2 were lower (16 and 21%, respectively) than the control samples. AVs observed in samples C1 and C2 at month 9 were lower than those observed in the control sample at month 12. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.