Safe Shellfish Handling
How to handle shellfish with love
Shellfish are one of Nature’s most perfect foods – healthful, nutritious and delicious. However, if shellfish are not kept cold they can cause illness (like many other raw foods). These tips ensure that the shellfish you serve are as perfect and healthful as Nature intended.
Before you set out to “dig your own” there are basic guidelines to follow. The first is to dig in approved waters. The RI Dept. of Environmental Management regulates and manages shellfish growing areas. They monitor water quality for conditions such as bacterial/viral loads and “red tide.” To ensure you are harvesting from approved waters you can check the maps and descriptions at http://www.dem.ri.gov/maps/mapfile/shellfsh.pdf and get updates on closures on the DEM hotline at 401-222-2900. The wild harvest of oysters is prohibited from May 16 – Sept 14 annually.
Make sure your shellfish stay cold on the trip home. The optimal temperature to preserve flavor and safety is 35° to 45° F. Here are a few options:
- Keep shellfish on ice, not in water, and in the shade for the trip home.
- Using a cooler with ice or cold packs is the best choice.
Fresh shellfish can last for several days if properly stored in your refrigerator below 45° F. Freezing shellfish will kill them, and they should not be held in melted ice water. Make sure they are not contaminated by other foods that might drip on them. Allowing shellfish to warm up can allow bacteria to grow, increasing the risk of illness.
Make sure there are no dead or gaping shellfish, live shellfish will close tightly when tapped. Shellfish should smell fresh - like an ocean breeze. Avoid raw or undercooked shellfish if you are immune compromised*, but fully cooking will eliminate bacteria.
For more information about shellfish safety issues visit the following websites:
New State Record Quahog
Congratulations to Cooper Monaco of Wakefield, RI for finding the largest Rhode Island quahog to date! Cooper was clamming with his family in the Weekapaug area of Westerly in July 2020 when he dug up this behemoth! It measured 81mm wide at the hinge and weighed a whopping 2 lbs. 7.75 ounces. The previous largest recorded quahog was caught on the RI DEM Narragansett Bay Shellfish Dredge Survey and measured 72mm at the hinge. Cooper kindly donated his quahog to the URI Marine Science and Research Facility at the Narragansett Bay Campus where it is currently on display.