The Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Sanitation (DSS) has the responsibility to help establish and enforce regulations relating to the sanitary practices for the handling, storing, packing and distribution of shellfish, whelk, scallop and crab meat intended for wholesale distribution and human consumption. Persons, who process shellfish, whelk, scallop or crab must apply for and receive a Certificate of Inspection by the Division of Shellfish Sanitation. Certifications are issued for a period of no more than one year and are required to be applied for and renewed annually. Shellfish, whelk and scallop Certificates of Inspection are issued from October 1 to September 30, while crab meat processing Certificates of Inspection are issued from April 1 to March 31.
Shellfish harvesters in Virginia that harvest bivalve molluscan shellfish (oysters, hard clams, soft clams, mussels, ark clams, whole scallops, and scallops with roe) and sell their catch to anyone other than a certified shellfish dealer must apply for and receive a Certificate of Inspection from DSS. Persons in Virginia that buy shellfish from harvesters, certified Virginia dealers or certified dealers in other states, and then process the shellfish by any means either by shucking, repacking, retagging or labeling, and reshipping and selling wholesale must apply for and receive a Certificate of Inspection from DSS. Periodic inspections are conducted throughout the certification period by Shellfish Specialists. Certified shellfish dealers must comply with the Code of Virginia rules and regulations pertaining to shellfish, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance”, as well as the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish Model Ordinance.
Persons who process whelk by cooking, cracking, freezing or selling fresh meat for human consumption wholesale must apply for and receive a Certificate of Inspection from DSS. Certified dealers must comply with the Code of Virginia rules and regulations pertaining to the processing of whelk, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Code of Federal Regulation 21 CFR 110.
Persons who receive adductor muscle of scallops and process by washing, grading and packing must apply for and receive a Certificate of Inspection from DSS. Certified dealers must comply with the Code of Virginia rules and regulations, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Code of Federal Regulation 21 CFR 110.
Persons in Virginia who cook blue crabs and then further process them by picking and packing the crab meat for human consumption wholesale must be apply for and receive a Certificate of Inspection from DSS. Persons that steam whole crabs and offer them for sale without picking the meat are not required to have a Certificate of Inspection with DSS but should however contact their local city or county health department as the may be required to obtain a local permit.
Restaurants that shuck shellfish or cook and pick crabs for consumption on-site must have a current Virginia Department of Health, Division of Food and Environmental Services permit issued by the local Health Department in the area the facility is located.
The Division has three field offices, which certify and inspect shellfish, whelk, scallop and crab plants in Tidewater, Virginia. The central office certifies and inspects plants in the central and western parts of the state. Please use the listing of addresses and phone numbers provided of the DSS Field Offices to contact the Field Directors and Shellfish Specialists in your area.
Prior to the development of plans for construction of a processing facility or modification of an existing building, contact the appropriate DSS Field Office which represents the area where your proposed facility will be located. After gathering some general information regarding your proposal, a Shellfish Specialist will be assigned to assist you. They will schedule a meeting and work with you to develop of a set of plans for your proposed facility if you are interested in starting from the ground up, or will conduct a preliminary inspection of an existing facility if you plan to modify an existing building. Your Shellfish Specialist will provide you with an application to process scallop-whelk, shellfish, or a crab meat. This application does not in itself allow a person or company to sell shellfish or crab meat, a current Certificate of Inspection signed by the State Health Commissioner is required.
Remember that processing facilities often require approval from localities and other state agencies to comply with building codes, zoning, waste disposal, etc. depending on the type and complexity of the proposed operation. If you are unsure what may apply to your proposed operation, the Shellfish Specialist will provide guidance regarding the necessary agencies and/or localities to contact. Once you have met the necessary requirements for certification you will be issued a Certificate of Inspection for your specific location and for a period of no longer than one year.
Certified Crab Processors
Click here for a listing of current certified crab processors in Virginia.
Certified Scallop and Whelk Processors
Click here for a listing of current certified scallop and whelk processors in Virginia.
FDA Certified Shellfish Shippers
For a listing of shellfish dealers, domestic and foreign, who have been certified by a state or foreign Authority, click here to be redirected to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s publication Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers list.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Code of Federal Regulation 21CFR Sec. 123.6 requires every seafood processor to conduct a hazard analysis and have and implement a written Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan whenever the analysis reveals one or more food safety hazards are reasonably likely to occur. This means that all certified shellfish and crab meat dealers in Virginia must have and implement a HACCP plan for each kind of product processed. The hazard analysis must be conducted and the HACCP plan developed by someone trained in Seafood HACCP, and one place to obtain that training is from Virginia Tech. Here are example HACCP plans specific to types of shellfish certifications: Reshippers or Shellstock Shippers.
There is an online training course available through the National Seafood HACCP Alliance for Training and Education. This online seafood HACCP training is the equivalent to the first two days of the "live" three-day training course available at Virginia Tech, but this online course still requires the person to attend the final day of training on site at the class. A broader list of upcoming HACCP classes available in the USA can be found here.
For more information concerning developing and implementing HACCP plans specific to your product and process methods please contact the appropriate DSS office. The FDA has additional federal information here concerning HACCP.
National Shellfish Sanitation Requirements
NSSP Manuals are also available online with detailed NSSP requirement information.
We offer a complete listing of VDH regulations online.