The Section's Inspection Program is responsible for the permitting and inspection of shellfish processors statewide. Shellfish are defined as raw bivalve molluscan shellfish only (oysters, clams, mussels, arcs, etc.). Anyone who purchases shellfish from a harvester, shucks shellfish, repacks or re-labels shellfish must be permitted by the Inspection Program. Persons who purchase shellfish in the original containers/bags and sell to other consumers or dealers in another state may also be required to be permitted. The program typically permits between 180-200 interstate and intrastate shellfish processors annually and inspects processors on at least a quarterly basis.
Shellfish processors are certified as either shucker/packers, repackers, shellstock shippers or reshippers. All raw or frozen shellfish products offered for sale must be properly tagged or labeled by a certified dealer. North Carolina certifies both intrastate and interstate dealers. Intrastate dealers may only sell tagged product within North Carolina. Interstate dealers may sell anywhere in the country and are listed on the , which is published online monthly.
The Inspection Program also certifies crustacea processors. Crustacea are defined as crabs, shrimp, lobster and crayfish although almost all of the permitted facilities in North Carolina are for blue crab processing. Plants that cook, pick, pack, thermally process or repack cooked crustacea are required to be permitted under SSRWQ rules. Although North Carolina once had more than 40 certified crab processing plants, today there are fewer than 20. This is due in large part to competition from foreign processors. All shellfish and crustacea processors must comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point guidelines. Shellfish processors are inspected in compliance with National Shellfish Sanitation Program requirements and state inspectors must be standardized by the U.S. FDA.
Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality rules governing storage, handling and sale of raw molluscan shellfish and cooked crustacea apply to all product found in North Carolina. As a result, shellfish inspectors work with the division's Dairy and Food Protection Branch as well as county environmental health departments to assist with retail and restaurant issues regarding shellfish and cooked crustacea products. Inspectors also provide training when requested to county environmental health inspectors and Serve Safe classes for food service industry personnel. The SSRWQ Inspection Program also works in cooperation with N.C. Sea Grant and the N.C. Environmental Health State of Practice Committee to provide a Seafood Safety Workshop, held annually in Pine Knoll Shores .