Tide To Table – Shellfish

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on April 21, 2016 · 0 comments

Today the shellfish farming industry can replenish diminishing natural supplies and provide consumers with foods they enjoy. Williapa Bay off the coast of Washington state supplies one-quarter of all oysters eaten in the US today. Off shore shellfish farms also grow and harvest clams, mussels and geoducks (gooey-ducks), an oversized shellfish that can grow to be 7 pounds with most of its body outside the shell.
When buying shellfish the fish monger should be able to display the harvest tag which assures you that the variety was grown, handled and sold in accordance with industry and federal standards. All shellfish is best used within five days of being harvested. Discard any broken or cracked shells. If a shell is partially opened, tap it and if the bivalve closes, it is still alive, which is what you want. Never buy shellfish stored in standing water. They should be sold iced and when taken home stored in the refrigerator covered with a damp towel.
Though shellfish are often associated with food borne illness, this is actually not factually correct. There is less than one incidence of illness for every 100,000 servings of raw shellfish. For cooked chicken the rate of illness is one for every 25,000 servings. At one time we were cautioned not to eat shellfish harvested in a month with a name that did not contain an “r.” These are warmer months – May through August when bacterial levels could be high. Today bacterial contamination is no longer an issue because of regulations and refrigeration. Shellfish can be eaten safely year round.
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