Disease-causing bacteria and viruses can be found in raw shellfish. Contamination can occur at any point in the food distribution system, including the point of harvest. Since shellfish filter water for food, any bacteria or viruses in the water will be concentrated in the animal and can make it unsafe to eat.
Shellfish harvested from polluted waters and areas of sewage discharge have higher levels of disease-causing organisms. As harvesters, you already know which areas are closed to shellfishing. These waters are tested for certain bacteria and are only closed to protect human health.
- Don’t harvest from polluted waters. All harvesting is prohibited in closed areas.
- Don’t discharge sewage into the water.
- Store out of the sun, covered if possible
- Protect shellfish from contamination. Store away from bilge water, fuel oil, and other chemicals.
- Fresh shellfish should not be kept uncooked for much over a week.
- Keep shellfish fresh by storing in an open container covered with a damp towel in a refrigerator or cool location.
- Store oysters with the cup side on the bottom so that the oysters retain their juices.
When you dig soft-shell clams, bring a plastic bucket and fill with clean saltwater from the same area. After washing off the clams with cold water, leave the clams in the saltwater overnight, and they will clean themselves of inside sand and grit.
Photo copyright © by Andrew Newman