Shellfish Handling & Safety Guidance

The Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture (DA/BA) licenses and regulates commercial shellfish operations in Connecticut. 
The retail sale of shellfish from a local fish market, restaurant, grocery store, or booth at a fair to the final consumer does not require a DA/BA license. These operations are under the jurisdiction of the local Director of Health and may require a local license.

Please be advised that consuming raw or undercooked shellfish, meats, or eggs may increase your risk of food borne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.
Download our brochure on safe handling, storage, and cooking practices of molluscan shellfish & our brochure on the importance of keeping shellfish cold.   

Purchase shellfish carefully.

  • Only buy raw oysters, clams and mussels from reputable sources. If in doubt, ask to see the shipper's tag or check the shipper number on the container.
  • Shellfish should have a clean, characteristic odor. Do not purchase shellfish that have strong, off odors.
  • Shells should be closed, or close tightly when tapped. The siphons of steamer (soft shell) clams should move when touched.
  • Shells should be clean and unbroken.

Store Shellfish Properly.

  • Shellfish shelf life is dependent on a few variables, including how the product is handled and storage temperature.
  • Shelf life is generally 7-10 days, but can be longer for hard shell clams and oysters. Steamer clams cannot close their shells, which can result in a shorter shelf life than hard shell clams and oysters.
  • Keep shellfish alive until ready to prepare. Refrigerate live shellfish promptly and properly. Live clams, mussels and oysters should be stored at 35-40℉ under well-ventilated refrigeration. Do not store shellfish in in air-tight bags/containers or in water.
  • Discard dead shellfish promptly. The shells of hard clams, oysters, and mussels should be tightly closed and should not open when tapped. Gaping, unresponsive shellfish should be discarded promptly. The siphon of steamer clams should not be limp, the shell should be fairly tight around the siphon, and the siphon should move (at least a little bit) when touched. Discard steamer clams that do not resemble the listed characteristics and do not move when touched.
  • Shellfish may be frozen for 3-6 months.