With oyster season beginning October 15 in North Carolina, the State's Division of Marine Fisheries has released guidelines for consumers regarding shellfish consumption.
The following tips concerning to oysters and clams are from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries:
- Only purchase shellfish from reputable dealers, retailers, grocers, markets or restaurants. It is illegal for shellfish harvesters to sell directly to the public unless they are also certified shellfish dealers. These licensed dealers are inspected and required to keep shellfish under refrigeration and keep sanitation records.
- Ask to see the shellfish tag before you purchase. By law, the shellfish tag must be removed at the last point of sale and kept on file for tracking purposes, but consumers can always ask to see the tag to look at when the shellfish were harvested and what area they are from. For the best quality, shellfish should be consumed within seven days of harvest.
- Keep oysters and clams refrigerated until you are ready to cook and eat them. Shellfish need to be kept at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacterial growth.
- Store shellfish away from other contaminants. Shellfish are living animals when you purchase them, so they can become contaminated by placing them on wet floors, splashing them with dirty water or dripping raw fish and other foods.
- Thoroughly wash shellfish prior to cooking. Remove all mud and dirt from the outside of the shellfish, using water and a stiff brush.
- Prior to cooking or raw consumption, discard any dead shellfish. Dead shellfish will have slightly gaping shells that will not close when tapped.
For more information about Vibrios, see the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ website at http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/vibrio.html.
source: North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources