Shellfish Sanitation Program
The Connecticut Shellfish Program operates as part of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP). The NSSP is a cooperative program consisting of state, FDA, and industry partners who agree to accept and meet specific responsibilities in order to ensure the safety of molluscan shellfish.
Shellfish sanitation guidelines are published as the NSSP Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish Model Ordinance (NSSP MO). Each year the FDA evaluates Connecticut’s shellfish program for compliance with the NSSP MO.
The Bureau is responsible for the sanitary inspection and licensing of shellfish dealers involved in harvesting, shucking, depuration, repacking, and reshipping of fresh and frozen molluscan shellfish. The FDA requires that all shellfish processing and handling operations be inspected at least twice per year for compliance with the NSSP MO. Facilities found to be in compliance with the NSSP MO are licensed by the Bureau of Aquaculture and included in the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List.
Inspection & Licensing of Shellstock Shippers
The Bureau of Aquaculture oversees proper shellfish handling, shipping, and record keeping practices of its licensees in order to ensure a safe and wholesome product. The Bureau of Aquaculture enforces regulations outlined in the NSSP MO for the sanitary handling of shellfish. Molluscan shellfish filter large quantities of seawater each day and can accumulate pathogenic bacteria, viruses and contaminants, like heavy metals, as they feed.
Bureau of Aquaculture staff routinely inspects shellfish harvesters and wholesale facilities for compliance with the NSSP MO. Inspections cover all aspects of shellfish handling from harvest vessels to shellfish transport to shellfish wholesalers. Harvest vessels are inspected for proper construction, operation, and maintenance to prevent the contamination, deterioration, or decomposition of shellfish. Inspectors ensure that shellstock is properly identified with a shellfish tag that includes the harvest date and location. The State also inspects the vehicles used to transport shellfish from harvest to wholesaler and from wholesaler to customer for proper construction, operation, and maintenance to prevent the contamination, deterioration, or decomposition of shellfish.
At the wholesale level DA/BA makes sure that dealers follow general Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements. HACCP is a management tool designed to minimize food-safety hazards and used to protect the food supply against microbiological, chemical, and physical hazards. Wholesalers must follow general sanitation monitoring requirements for factors such as:
· safety of water
· condition and cleanliness of food contact surfaces
· prevention of cross-contamination
· maintenance of hand washing and toilet facilities
· protection from adulterants
· labeling, storage, and use of toxic compounds
· employee health conditions
· exclusion of pests
Additionally Bureau of Aquaculture inspectors review records and verify that facilities are meeting all requirements of the NSSP MO.
Growing Area Classifications
Shellfish waters are classified based on findings of a sanitary survey. The sanitary survey identifies all actual and potential pollution sources, and their impact upon a growing area, reviews bacteriological quality of waters in the growing area, analyses meteorological, hydrodynamic, and geographic characteristics of the growing area, evaluates changes in land use and their potential to impact the growing area, evaluates the performance of sewage treatment plants, and looks for any failing septic systems. The NSSP MO requires sanitary surveys to be reevaluated and updated yearly, reviewed and updated every three years, and repeated every 12 years. Any area not meeting all NSSP MO criteria for its current classification, due to new or existing pollution sources or degradation of water quality, will be downgraded. Any upgrade in an areas classification must be supported by the findings of a sanitary survey.