Safe Handling Tips for PEI Shellfish

Like all coastal areas in Canada, Prince Edward has a very particular appeal for seafood lovers everywhere. Namely, you can harvest a variety of shellfish (including crabs, lobsters, clams, oysters, scallops, and mussels) yourself right off the beaches, or you can buy the species fresh from any number of stores or marinas.

While the abundance of shellfish is a seafood lover's dream, it is important to note that this food source can be one of the most susceptible to bacteria, which cause food borne illnesses. The soft bodies of shellfish, which are of course the parts that humans and other animals love to eat, are easily penetrated by these bacteria, which also breed at a rapid rate. The only way to avoid getting sick is to ensure that you handle Prince Edward Island shellfish correctly; here are a few tips.

Be aware of conditions before you go out gathering. One common illness among seafood lovers who gather their own shellfish is caused by the oceanic phenomenon known as red tide. Red tide is caused by algae, which start to rapidly breed in a certain water zone. This algae produces natural toxins, which although not harmful to the shellfish, can make humans very ill. The only way to avoid red tide poisoning is to make sure that you are aware of any occurrences along Prince Edward Island beaches. It is a localized event so you can move to another part of the province for gathering if you wish; you should also note that red tide affects some shellfish species and not others.
Proper storage. The key to storing any shellfish before you consume it is in the storage. Every seafood lover agrees that the best way to eat shellfish is as fresh as possible; keep your critters alive by storing them in cool salt water until you are ready to cook them. If that is not possible, you must ensure that your shellfish are kept refrigerated in the period between purchase and consumption; temperatures above 40 degrees F (4.4 degrees Celsius) will lead to ideal bacteria breeding grounds!
Time. Even with proper storage, bacteria will eventually begin to breed on your shellfish. It's important to eat mussels, oysters, and other creatures with two days of purchase. If you are unable, you can freeze them, but they will definitely lose some of their flavour!

Prince Edward Island is a seafood lover's dream. There are multitudes of shellfish to be consumed, but in order for it to be of the best quality it is important to follow the handling tips we listed above.

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