Community: Shellfish Food Safety

Food Safety for consumption of Molluscan Shellfish

Shellfish are a delicious source of nutritious food. They are high in protein, low in calories, sodium, fat, and cholesterol. Shellfish are also a good source of vitamins and minerals. Clams, oysters, and mussels can be quick and easy to prepare. There are certain risks associated with eating raw shellfish. If you should choose to consume raw shellfish, know the source of your shellfish and check the recall notice section of this website. By knowing what precautions to take, consumers can make an educated choice about shellfish consumption.

    Storing Shellfish: Fresh shellfish in the shell

    • Store in an open container in the refrigerator.
    • Place a damp towel on top to maintain humidity.
    • Do not store shellfish in water as they will die and could spoil.
    • Shellfish that are alive and close when tapped can be stored up to seven days. This includes oysters and clams.
    • Mussels should only be stored up to four days.
    • Shellfish that cannot completely close their shells (razor clams, horse clams, and soft shell clams) can be stored for up to four days.
    • Shellfish with broken shells, or that are open and do not close when tapped, should be discarded.

    Storing Shellfish: Shucked shellfish (shellfish removed from their shells)

    • Can be kept up to three days.
    • Can be frozen up to three months.

    Storing Shellfish: Cooked Shellfish

    • Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days
    • Can be kept in the freezer up to three months.

    Thawed shellfish (taken from the freezer and thawed in the refrigerator)

    • Can be kept up to two days.

    Cooking Shellfish

    Shellfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F for 15 seconds. Shucked shellfish (clams, mussels, and oysters without shells) become plump and opaque when cooked thoroughly and the edges of the oysters start to curl. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides the following advice:

    • Purchased oysters in the shell
      • Buy oysters with shells closed. Discard oysters with shells already opened.
      • Boil oysters until shells open. Once open, boil another 3-5 minutes.
      • Steam oysters until shells open (add oysters to already steaming water). Once shells open, steam another 4-9 minutes.
      • Use small pots to boil or steam oysters. Using large pots, or cooking to many oysters at once can cause uneven cooking.
      • Discard an oysters that do not open during cooking.

    Purchased shucked oysters

    • Boil or simmer shucked oysters for at least 3 minutes or until the edges curl.
    • Fry at 375 degrees for at least 3 minutes.
    • Broil 3 inches from heat for 3 minutes
    • Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes


    Scallops turn milky white, are opaque and firm when cooked. Depending on their size, scallops can take 3-4 minutes to cook thoroughly.

        Seafood Health Facts: Making Smart Choices

        Balancing the Benefits and Risks of Seafood Consumption
        Resources for Healthcare Providers and Consumers

        Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthful diet. In fact, a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children's growth and development. But, as with any type of food, it's important to handle seafood safely in order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.