Learn about shellfish sanitation

If you consume shellfish, you'll want to learn about the steps DMF takes to ensure Massachusetts shellfish growing areas are sanitary.

Overview

Here at DMF, one of our top goals is public health protection. That is why we conduct sanitary surveys of shellfish growing areas. These surveys determine whether an area's shellfish are cleared for human consumption. The principal components of a sanitary survey include:

  • An evaluation of pollution sources that may affect an area
  • An evaluation of physical characteristics of the coastal area and weather conditions that may affect distribution of pollutants
  • An assessment of water quality

Each growing area must have a complete sanitary survey every 12 years. Areas also must have an evaluation every three years along with an annual review. This maintains a classification, which allows shellfish harvesting. The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference requires surveys, reviews, and annual water quality monitoring.

Each year, DMF collects water samples from 305 growing areas in Massachusetts. Our laboratories test the samples for fecal coliform bacteria. They use a membrane filtration method to determine the classification of shellfish growing areas.

Shellfish are also tested for poisonous substances. These tests are based upon an assessment of pollution sources impacting growing areas.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration establishes action levels and tolerances for contaminants to protect the public.

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