Harvesters and retailers of shellfish are required by the USDA, NSSP, CSSP, The EU's EC's Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety and other national government's Shellfish Sanitation Program's to tag their containers of shellfish with certain information in order to assure public safety.

This includes but not limited to: Oysters, clams, mussels, sushi grade fish and others.

The NSSP is a federal/state cooperative program recognized by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) for the sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption. A similar program is used in Canada (CSSP) and the EU (DG SANTE, formerly known as DG SANCO), is the competent authority and represents EUMS with respect to food safety controls for shellfish and seafood.

Why is This Information Important?

Shellfish poisoning is a general term used to indicate poisoning that occurs when shellfish (mainly oysters, clams, scallops or mussels) are eaten by humans. Shellfish are usually associated with saltwater habitats, but some species inhabit freshwater.

  • Shellfish can carry a variety of naturally occurring seafood toxins that cause poisoning in humans including: paralytic shellfish poisoning, amnesic shellfish poisoning, neurotoxic shellfish poisoning and diarrhoetic shellfish poisoning.

  • About 80,000 people get vibriosis – and 100 people die from it – in the United States every year.

  • One strain of the bacteria was known to be responsible for sickening an estimated 45,000 people in the U.S. each year.

  • Examples of some of the types of bacteria that may be found in seafood that cause foodborne illness by infection are Vibrio, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria. From 1973 to 2006, Vibrio species accounted for 38% of the outbreaks associated with seafood and 54% of the illnesses.

  • Pathogens may be present at low levels when fish or shellfish are harvested, and others may be introduced during handling and processing or by unsanitary practices.

  • Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is a serious illness caused by eating shellfish contaminated with dinoflagellate algae that produce harmful toxins. Some of these toxins are 1,000 times more potent than cyanide, and toxin levels contained in a single shellfish can be fatal to humans.

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