Certified Food Manager’s Guide to Safely Serving Shellfish

The waters in the Atlantic and Pacific are getting colder, and that makes it the prime time to eat and serve shellfish. Before the shellfish season begins, let’s take a moment to review food procedures for safely serving shellfish.

FDA testing shellfish is the first step in safely serving shellfish
Image credit: US Food and Drug Administration

Serving Shellfish Safety

There are a few types of potentially hazardous foods that certified food managers need to take extra care with when processing, molluscan shellfish is one of them. If handled improperly, they can cause catastrophic foodborne illness and pose a life-threatening situation to any guest who may be allergic. Food safety procedures for safely serving shellfish should begin the second they are received at your facility.

All shellfish must come from an approved source. Your local seafood provider should have more information on where your shellfish come from, and chances are most shellfish shipped to Minnesota come from approved waters. You shouldn’t simply accept this, however. All shipments of shellfish must include a tag or label that signifies where it came from and when they were harvested. Each batch must also be stored on its own. Shellfish from one container cannot co-mingle with shellfish from another batch until it’s time to prepare and serve. This helps to keep any bacteria from spreading from one batch to another and also helps identify the source of any batch that may have caused illness. Once these containers are empty, their labels must be stored for 90 days.

To prevent the growth of bacteria and safely serve shellfish, certified food managers should be very careful to keep all raw shellfish stored at 41 degrees or below. Shellfish are sensitive to bacteria growth, so extended times over 41 degrees greatly increase foodborne illness risk.

Shellfish allergies can be severe. We recommend that you designate a specific station in your facility for shellfish preparation. This will greatly reduce the risk that cross-contamination occurs. It’s also important to store shellfish as far away from other product as possible. Another key to safely serving shellfish is never store raw shellfish over ready-to-eat foods or other items in your refrigerated storage.

Finally, it’s important to warn your guests who may be allergic that shellfish are processed in your kitchen. Some allergy sufferers can’t take any chances. A simple disclaimer on your menu should suffice.

Do you serve or prepare shellfish? If so, what steps do you take to serve them safely?

For over 20 years Safe Food Training has been known as the # 1 provider of food manager certification in Minnesota. We offer both instructor lead and on-line food safety certification courses. Our instructor lead courses are regularly scheduled at several central Minnesota locations. If you have special training requirements, we can even customize ServSafe training for your group. Which ever option is best for you, we would be happy to serve your needs.

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