Shellfish selections tend to be plentiful on summer happy hour and appetizer menus for their versatility and fresh taste, but, with the heat of spring and summer warming the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast and waters in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, serving shellfish during the summer months creates a rise in the risk of spreading a food-borne illnesses due to Vibrio infections. This week, we’ll briefly discuss how to cook and store shellfish according to ServSafe food safety guidelines.
ServSafe Food Safety and Vibrio Infections
Two closely related bacteria cause Vibrio infections. These bacteria thrive in shellfish from warmer waters and most frequently sickens people who consume contaminated raw and undercooked shellfish. The symptoms of infection include:
- Chills and fever
- Skin rashes
While consuming undercooked shellfish increases the potential for spreading an infection, Vibrio bacterium also potentially spreads through contact with bare skin. These rare cases most commonly occur when raw shellfish comes into contact with a sore or open wound. Raw clams, oysters, scallops and mussels need to be handled in a hands-free manner.
When cooking shellfish, they must achieve an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Your cooked shellfish need to remain out of the danger zone after cooking, and we suggest that you serve them as soon as possible after they are prepared.
Proper storage also reduces the risk of spreading food-borne illness. ServeSafe food safety rules require shellfish to be stored below 41 degrees, and no two batches of shellfish should be stored in the same container. For example, scallops and clams cannot be stocked in the same containers prior to cooking. The same holds true with shellfish received on different dates. Combining two batches of shellfish increases the risk of spreading bacteria from one to the other.
The Minnesota Food Code also requires that tags from fresh shellfish be saved for 90 days. This requirement is in place to track down the source should an outbreak of Vibrio poisoning occur.
We love sampling shellfish from some of our talented local chefs. What are your favorite shellfish dishes?