Food Safety: How to Properly Receive and Inspect Fish and Shellfish

Staff training and buying from a reputable distributor are keys to protecting the health of your customers and your business.

In order to keep your customers safe when serving fish and shellfish on your menu, it’s important to provide food service training to your staff, and to follow the proper food safety steps when receiving these items. These type of foods are both considered time and temperature controlled for safety (TCS) foods.

Follow these important food safety steps when receiving fish or shellfish:

Fish (served raw or partially cooked):

  • Fish must be frozen from your supplier and delivered to you frozen if it will be served raw or partially cooked (such as sushi-grade)
  • Your restaurant foodservice supplier will provide you with records showing the fish was frozen — and you must keep this on file for 90 days from the date you served the fish

Remember, freezing for a specific time period kills parasites that might be on the fish.

Shellfish (raw shucked):

  • Raw shucked shellfish should be packaged in non-returnable containers
  • The container must be labeled with the packer’s name, address, and certification number
  • If the container is less than one-half gallon, it needs to have either a “best if used by” or “sell by” date
  • If the container is greater than one-half gallon it needs to be labeled with the date the shellfish were shucked

Shellfish (live):

  • Live shellfish must have an identification tag attached upon delivery of the product
    • This identification tag must remain on the product until all of the product is sold or served
    • Date the identification tag with the last date you served or sold the live shellfish
    • Keep the identification tag on file for 90 days from the date written
  • Reject any live shellfish that are muddy, have broken shells or are dead

The most important step in preventing foodborne illness when serving fish or shellfish is to purchase from an approved and reputable restaurant food distributor. This will ensure that you are serving safe and quality food in your operation, and will maintain appropriate food safety management standards.

The Nutrition Resource Center at Gordon Food Service, a team of registered dietitians and certified food-safety professionals, offers many food safety tools and resources for customers.

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