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Shellfish Handling & Safety

    From the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Aquaculture:

    The retail sale of shellfish from a local fish market, restaurant, grocery store, or booth at a fair to the final consumer does not require a DA/BA license.  These operations are under the jurisdiction of the local Director of Health and may require a local license.

    Please be advised that consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of food borne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.

    Download our brochure on safe handling, storage, and cooking practices of molluscan shellfish. You can also download our brochure on how to enjoy shellfish safely.

    How to purchase and handle shellfish safely

    Purchase shellfish carefully.

    Buy raw oysters, clams and mussels only from reputable sources.  If in doubt, ask to see the shipper’s tag or check the shipper number on the container.

    Shellfish should have a clean, characteristic odor, with no strong off odors.

    Shells should be closed, or close tightly when tapped, the siphons of steamer clams should move when touched.

    Shells should be clean and unbroken.

    Store Shellfish Properly.

    Shellfish shelf life is dependent on a few variables.  How the product is handled and the temperature at which it is kept are two main factors.

    Shelf life is generally 7-10 days, but can be longer for hard shell clams and oysters.  Because soft shelled clams cannot close their shells they can have a shorter shelf life than hard shell clams and oysters.

    Keep shellfish alive until ready to prepare.  Refrigerate live shellfish promptly and properly; live clams, mussels and oysters should be stored at 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit under well-ventilated refrigeration, not in air-tight bags or containers, or in water.

    Be sure to remove any dead shellfish promptly.  The shells of hard clams, oysters, and mussels should be tightly closed and should not open when tapped.  If shells are gaping and do not close when tapped on a hard surface, then the product is dead and should be discarded.  The siphon of soft shelled clams should not be limp, the shell should be fairly tight around the siphon, and the siphon should move (at least a little bit) when touched, if there is no movement then the product is probably dead and should be discarded.

    Shellfish may be frozen for 3-6 months.