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Retail handling of live unopened shellfish

Shellfish, such as oysters, mussels, clams, pipis and cockles need special care. 

Because shellfish are filter feeders, they occasionally accumulate harmful substances (eg biotoxins and micro-organisms) from the water they filter during feeding.

Biotoxins are harmful substances produced by some types of algae in waterways. Biotoxins can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhoea to severe respiratory and neurological problems.

Harmful micro-organisms, such as viruses and bacteria, may runoff from the land into the waterways, especially after heavy rainfall.

Purchasing shellfish

Shellfish must only be purchased from licensed seafood businesses. It is illegal to purchase shellfish from recreational fishermen. Unless you are a commercial oyster farmer or fisher, it is illegal for you to collect and sell your own shellfish.

Commercial shellfish businesses are licensed by the NSW Food Authority and are required to comply with the Food Regulation 2010. The Food Authority is therefore able to ensure that the business has a system in place to control the hazards associated with shellfish harvesting.

Live shellfish handling & storage

Live shellfish should be stored in a dry, cool environment. The exact temperature for storage will depend on the species. For example:

  • Sydney rock oysters should be stored below 21°C
  • Pacific oysters between 5°C and 10°C
  • mussels and pipis between 5°C and 10°C.

Your seafood supplier can provide further advice on the correct storage temperatures.

Shellfish must not be stored directly on the floor and must be protected from contamination by other foods.

Once shellfish are shucked or opened, they must be stored under refrigeration at less than 5°C.

Can I store the shellfish in water tanks?

If shellfish are stored in water they will begin filtering the water and risk contamination. Therefore wherever possible, you should avoid submerging shellfish in water. If you want to store the shellfish in water you must:

  • not store them in the same tank as other seafood (eg fish, lobsters or crabs)
  • only use water which is safe and has been tested
  • attach a water steriliser (eg a UV light on the system). Traditional aquarium filters or protein slimmers are not sterilisers
  • ensure the water enters the tanks via the water steriliser.