There are approximately 100 licensed certified shellfish dealers in the state of Florida. These dealers are regulated so that the consuming public is assured a safe, wholesome food supply. The processing plant inspection section has the responsibility to help establish and enforce regulations relating to the sanitary practices for handling, relaying, depuration, storing, packing or preserving of shellfish products intended for human consumption.
Shellfish are defined as all edible species of oysters, clams and mussels whether shucked or in the shell, fresh or fresh frozen. Shellfish are a unique human food source in respect that they are often consumed whole, including the gastrointestinal tract, and they are commonly eaten raw. They are filter feeders capable of concentrating pathogenic bacteria, viruses and contaminants like heavy metals during their normal feeding.
The processing plant section routinely inspect and regulate the activities taking place in the certified shellfish dealer plants. The section must make sure that the plant has: an acceptable water supply; an acceptable plumbing system; an adequate sewage and liquid disposal system; physical structures that have structural integrity and will not allow vermin to have access to food operations; construction materials used, and installation of those materials in such a way that the surfaces are smooth, nonabsorbent and cleanable; adequate equipment and utensils made of safe and durable materials, designed and constructed so that they are smooth and easy to clean; cleaning facilities to be able to keep the equipment clean and keep the overall plant clean; storage areas so food products and food contact surfaces of containers can be held protected; adequate ventilation to prevent contamination of food or food contact surfaces from condensation; adequate garbage and refuse disposal; an acceptable premises to prevent pooling of water, creation of a dust problem or high vegetation which may lead to a vermin problem.
The Department must make sure that the plant is only accepting shellfish that have been legally harvested from an approved area. The shellfish must be properly tagged and can not be abused during transport. The Department inspects to ensure that the shellfish are being handled and stored properly at the plant so that they will not become contaminated or adulterated. The shellfish must be stored at 45 F or below except during necessary periods of processing. In plants that shuck shellfish, the Department must make sure that the shucked product is out of refrigeration for the shortest amount of time possible.
The Department inspects products for accurate labeling to make sure that the information on the product is true to prevent consumer fraud and/or to give our regulatory agency the opportunity to recall contaminated product in foodborne outbreaks. The Department also must make sure the plant is keeping accurate records of all the product they sell and who they sell the product to. The Department has the authority to inspect the records of the plant any time the plant is in operation. The specialist has authority to inspect a plant whenever someone is there working.