Date: Oct. 2, 2013
Contact: Patricia Smith
Tips For a Healthy Oyster Roast
MOREHEAD CITY — Oyster season starts Oct. 15, and people are pulling out their fire grates and steamer pans, getting ready to slurp down the salty treats.
But before they indulge, consumers should take some basic precautions to prevent illness. Here are some tips from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries that pertain to oysters and clams:
- Only purchase shellfish from reputable dealers, retailers, grocers, markets or restaurants. It is illegal for shellfish harvesters to sell directly to the public unless they are also certified shellfish dealers. These licensed dealers are inspected and required to keep shellfish under refrigeration and keep sanitation records.
- Ask to see the shellfish tag before you purchase. By law, the shellfish tag must be removed at the last point of sale and kept on file for tracking purposes, but consumers can always ask to see the tag to look at when the shellfish were harvested and what area they are from. For the best quality, shellfish should be consumed within seven days of harvest.
- Keep oysters and clams refrigerated until you are ready to cook and eat them. Shellfish need to be kept at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacterial growth.
- Store shellfish away from other contaminants. Shellfish are living animals when you purchase them, so they can become contaminated by placing them on wet floors, splashing them with dirty water or dripping raw fish and other foods.
- Thoroughly wash shellfish prior to cooking. Remove all mud and dirt from the outside of the shellfish, using water and a stiff brush.
- Prior to cooking or raw consumption, discard any dead shellfish. Dead shellfish will have slightly gaping shells that will not close when tapped.
- Those with the following conditions are at higher risk for a potentially serious or even fatal illness from the naturally occurring Vibrio bacteria:
- Liver disease (from hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcoholism, or cancer)
- Iron overload disease (hemochromatosis)
- Cancer (including lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease)
- Stomach disorders
- Or any illness or medical treatment that weakens the body’s immune system
People with these conditions should fully cook all shellfish before consumption. Cooking the oyster kills the Vibrio bacteria. If you are unsure of your risk, ask your doctor.
For more information about Vibrios, see the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ website at http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/vibrio.html. For more information about North Carolina shellfish safety, contact Patti Fowler, the division’s Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality section chief, at 252-808-8147 or Patti.Fowler@ncdenr.gov. You may also contact Steve Murphey, with the Shellfish Sanitation Section, at 252-808-8155 or Steve.Murphey@ncdenr.gov.
For regulations on oyster harvest, see Proclamation SF-7-2013 at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamations. For more information on this year’s oyster season, contact Mike Marshall, the division’s Central District manager, at 252-808-8077 or Mike.Marshall@ncdenr.gov.