Department of Environmental Conservation

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New Yorks Role In The National Shellfish Sanitation Program

The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference

clams, mussels, oysters and scallops
The term shellfish refers to
bivalve mollusks such as clams,
oysters and mussels.

New York State takes many steps to provide protection to consumers of shellfish. New York is a founding member of the Interstate Shellfish Conference (ISSC). This organization is made up of shellfish producing and shellfish receiving states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the shellfish industry. A number of foreign nations that ship raw shellfish products into the United States also participate. ISSC members meet regularly to review shellfish sanitation issues and promote uniform shellfish safety standards for all members to conform to. These uniform shellfish safety standards are embodied in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP), a set of detailed guidelines that specify how members handle shellfish safety issues and provide satisfactory protection for the consumers of bivalve shellfish. DEC implements New York State's shellfish sanitation program in accordance with the guidelines of the NSSP.

The National Shellfish Sanitation Program

This program establishes uniform requirements for the handling of all raw bivalve molluscan products. All ISSC members must follow these guidelines for handling all raw shellfish products entering in interstate commerce on the wholesale level.

The NSSP guidelines describe in detail how participants must evaluate water quality (examine water samples for evidence of harmful bacteria, viruses, or algae) in shellfish harvesting areas. The guidelines also specify how the shellfish industry must handle shellfish and observe the appropriate sanitary requirements. These guidelines are vital to ensure proper sanitary conditions are maintained, from harvesting to shucking, packing, processing and shipping. The NSSP also specifies uniform requirements for participants' laboratories that examine water and shellfish samples and how frequently the states' law enforcement programs should patrol uncertified (closed) shellfish beds. All these guidelines are important to ensure that steps are taken to provide the consumer with a shellfish product that is free of potential pathogens.

The NSSP's minimum requirements are set forth in the "Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish" which is written in a format that may be directly adopted as regulation by participants. The FDA oversees the NSSP by conducting annual evaluations of all participating states and foreign nations to assure that the minimum requirements of the NSSP are implemented uniformly by all member states and nations.