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Risks of Eating Shellfish - Seafood and Aquatic Life

Molluscan shellfish defined as oysters, clams, and mussels pose risks that are different from fish and crabs. Because molluscan shellfish are filter feeders and often eaten raw, a program has been developed to protect consumers. Molluscan shellfish harvest areas are classified on shellfish harvest maps. These maps indicate areas that are approved, conditionally approved, restricted, or prohibited for harvest. Approved and conditionally approved harvest areas open or close based on rainfall, river flow, bacteriological results, presence of biotoxins (e.g. red tide), or illness investigations linked to a harvest area. The opening or closing of approved and conditionally approved harvest areas is directed by DSHS through issuance of a marine order. Restricted and prohibited areas are classified as such based-on levels of fecal pollution, human pathogens, or contaminants. DSHS issues a marine order to classify areas as restricted or prohibited. Before harvesting molluscan shellfish, individuals should have a current shellfish classification map and determine the status of the approved and conditionally approved harvest areas. You may go to our classification map page to see the most current maps or call (512) 834-6757. The status of shellfish harvest areas can be obtained from the shellfish status page, the Seafood and Aquatic Life Group at (512) 834-6757 or by calling a 24-hour, in state only, toll-free phone number (800) 685-0361.

Buying Shellfish

Purchase and use ONLY raw oysters, clams, mussels, or whole or roe-on scallops as shellstock (in-the-shell) or shucked shellfish (removed from the shell) that originate from certified interstate shellfish shippers.

DO NOT purchase molluscan shellfish from recreational or commercially licensed shellstock harvesters or any other source not listed in the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List, published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  • That are not properly labeled or tagged
  • That, on arrival, do not have an internal meat temperature of 50º F (10º C) or less if shellstock, or 45º F (7º C) or less if shucked

    CHECK shellstock tags and shellfish labels upon receipt. 

    • Train staff to know what to look for on a tag
    • Post in the receiving area an example of a properly filled out tag and label
    • Verify that a shipper is in good standing each month by checking the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List

    Look for the Following Information on Tags or Labels 

    Shellstock Container Tags

    • Name, address and certification number of the certified shipper
    • Original shipper's certification number (if different from above)
    • Date of harvesting
    • The most precise identification of the harvest location as is practicable including the two-letter state abbreviation. When the molluscan shellstock has been in wet storage in a dealer's operation, the tag shall state: "THIS PRODUCT IS A PRODUCT OF (Name of State) AND WAS WET STORED AT (Facility Certification Number) FROM (Date) TO (Date)".  
    • Quantity and type of shellfish (e.g., 1 sack oysters), and the following statement in bold capitalized type on each tag
      • "THIS TAG IS REQUIRED TO BE ATTACHED UNTIL CONTAINER IS EMPTY AND THEREAFTER KEPT ON FILE FOR 90 DAYS"; and, the consumer information statement adopted by the ISSC or its equivalent as approved by the Shellfish Control Authority.

    Shucked Shellfish Labels

    • Name, address, and certification number of the packer or repacker
    • On containers of unfrozen product less than one-half gallon, the words "Sell By" or "Best If Used By" followed by the name of the month and the day of the month
    • On containers of one-half gallon and larger, the words "Date Shucked" followed by the date the product was shucked and the date on the lid
    • On frozen product, the words "Best If Used By" followed by the date and frozen shellfish must also be labeled with the words "Frozen", "Individually Quick Frozen", or "IQF" impressed, embossed, lithographed, or otherwise permanently recorded on the container. Stamping is not allowed, except for the date itself
    • STORE shellstock and shellfish properly
      • Separate from all other raw and cooked food
      • Reduce meat temperature as required for shellfish to 45° F within 2 hours of receipt
      • Ensure good air circulation around shellstock
      • Keep off the floor and up on pallets or shelves
      • Maintain lot source identification by tags, labels or record keeping
      • Do not commingle (mix) different lots or species
      • File and retain the tag for 90 days after the container is emptied
      • Keep records that indicate which shellfish are sold or served on which days
    • SELL AND SERVE only live shellstock
      • For oysters, test by tapping open shells with a hard object and discard shellstock which does not close its shell
      • Use a molluscan shell only once as a serving container and only for the oyster that comes in that shell
    Last updated October 17, 2017