Fish and Seafood

Definitions:

  • Fish: refers to fresh or saltwater finfish, crustaceans, mollusks and other forms of aquatic animal life suitable for human consumption.
  • Whole, fresh fish and shellfish: refers to seafood that has not been frozen or physically processed in any way from the time of catch or harvest until its delivery to the consumer.
  • Whole, frozen seafood: refers to fish and shellfish that has been frozen prior to their service and sale in ready-to-eat form, but has not been physically processed.
  • Processed fish: refers to fish that has been gutted, scaled, pan dressed (had its head, tail and fins removed), filleted, or cut into fish steaks.  This category also includes seafood that has been marinated, smoked, partially cooked, shucked (shellfish), dried, vacuum-packed, or otherwise physically processed.
  • Comminuted seafood products: refers to food products that include seafood as an ingredient, or products that have been reduced in size and restructured, and can include seafood in various forms of processing (e.g. a product consisting of a raw, smoked and cooked seafood component).

Harvest (Catch)/Post Harvest:

  • Following federal guidelines and recommendations regarding proper seafood handling and processing procedures helps to minimize seafood-borne illness.  The state of Colorado follows federal guidelines.
  • The FDA runs a mandatory safety program for all seafood products and also publishes extensive recommendations to help seafood processors develop their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans. A HACCP plan is mandatory for all fish and fishery processors and focuses on prevention of food hazards.
  • Except as specified below, raw, marinated, or partially cooked fish other than shellfish must be frozen throughout to a temperature of:
    • -4°F (-20°C) or below for 168 hours (7 days) in a freezer; or
    • -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours in a flash freezer.
  • Exception: If the fish are tuna of the species Thunnus alalunga, Thunnus albacares (Yellowfin tuna), Thunnus atlanticus, Thunnus maccoyii (Bluefin tuna, Southern), Thunnus obesus (Bigeye tuna), or Thunnus thynnus (Bluefin tuna, Northern), the fish may be served or sold in a raw, raw-marinated, or partially cooked ready-to-eat form without freezing as specified above.

Food Safety: As of 2008, fish and shellfish were more likely to cause foodborne-illness than any other category of food product.  The scope of seafood-borne illness is vast in terms of both causes of and types of illness.  Sources of potential illness-causing microorganisms in seafood include:

  • Microorganisms naturally present in aquatic environments;
  • Microorganisms from sewage pollution of aquatic environments; and
  • Microorganisms from seafood handlers, equipment and the environment.

The types of seafood most susceptible to contamination from these sources include raw oysters and other seafood, smoked, salted or fermented seafood, contaminated cooked crab meat, and seafood cooked below 140 °F.  Illnesses linked to these sources include gastroenteritis, botulism and septicemia.

Ciguatera often is considered the most common food-borne disease related to the consumption of finfish.  It is responsible for over 50% of all reported cases of seafood poisoning in the US and is most commonly associated with larger reef-dwelling fish such as moray eels, barracuda, red snapper, and amberjack.

Seafood Labeling: Nutrition labeling for raw fish and custom-processed fish is voluntary but is required for many seafood products such as canned oysters, canned tuna, and frozen raw breaded shrimp, as well as for packages of fresh seafood.  Product labeling and sanitation requirements are the same across markets such as grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and sales to restaurants.  Additional labeling requirements include:

  • Labeling for processed fish has to indicate its perishable nature.
  • Frozen seafood products require indication that they are to remain frozen until they are thawed at refrigeration temperatures.
  • Each container of processed fish requires an identifying code that indicates the establishment where the product was packed, the product’s contents, and the year, day, and period during which it was packed.
  • Each retail package of processed or fresh fish requires a label that indicates the package’s contents, the name and physical address of the packer or processor of the fish, and the product’s net weight.  These requirements are outlined in the Colorado Measurements Standards Act.
  • Fresh and frozen shucked molluscan shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels, or scallops) have to be received and/or repacked in non-returnable packages indicating the name and address of the original shellstock processor and the state shellstock certification number.  They also have to remain in the containers in which they were received until they are used or sold.
  • Each original container of unshucked molluscan shellfish must be identified by a tag, for a period of 90 days, that states the name and address of the original shellfish processor, the kind and quantity of shellfish, and the certification number issued by the state or foreign shellfish control agency.
  • Country of Origin Labeling is required for wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish sold by large retailers such as supermarkets and club warehouse stores.

Seafood Inspection: The Colorado Department of Agriculture, through the Division of Inspection and Consumer Services Division, conducts inspections to ensure the accurate labeling of packaged seafood products.

Seafood processors, both foreign and domestic, are subject to FDA inspection procedures.  The Seafood HACCP regulation directs the FDA’s inspection efforts primarily to parts of the process that are most likely to affect the safety of seafood products.  The HACCP approach allows the FDA to evaluate processors’ implementation of their HACCP systems over a period of time by accessing their HACCP plans and monitoring corrective actions and verification procedures.  Examples of high priority products include ready-to-eat products such as hot- or cold-smoked fish, scombrotoxin-forming fish such tuna or mahi mahi, aquacultured seafood products, and fish packed in reduced oxygen packages.

Although inspections are based primarily on risk-based product priorities, FDA district offices may adjust their coverage to include a particular establishment, such as one that is associated with a consumer complaint, illness, or poor compliance history.  Occasionally, if inspections reveal questionable processing activities that cannot be resolved through an evaluation of HACCP records, the FDA may collect samples of the processor’s product to examine for particular hazards or contaminants.

Distribution Method (Expand All | Collapse All)

You are selling your product at a farmers’ market, CSA, roadside stand, or other direct to consumer outlet


Licensing: An Aquaculture Permit issued by the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Animal Industry Division, is required for private fisherman selling live fresh fish.  Note that all live fish coming into the state and all live fish in the state must be tested for Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS). The Colorado Division of Wildlife may require testing or inspection for other diseases. To request an inspection of your facility, contact Mandy Colburn at (970) 534-3468.

A retail food establishment license, issued by your county health department, is required to sell fish and seafood products at a farmers market, roadside stand, or on-farm. In addition, there are specific certification and/or training requirements that must be completed before consumers can manufacture or process seafood products. Persons interested in doing either of these should first contact CDPHE’s Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability at (303) 692-3620 for further information.

Labeling: See seafood labeling requirements are listed above. Refer also to the general labeling requirements.

Sales Tax Liability: See general sales tax information.

Weights and Measures: All seafood must be sold by weight, with certain exceptions (e.g., shellfish in the shell and ready-to-eat food such as a meal sold in a restaurant may be sold by count/serving or weight). If you are selling your product by weight, you must follow the Colorado weights and measures requirements.

You are selling your product to a store, restaurant, food cart, K-12 school, university, hospital, or other retail food establishment


Licensing: An Aquaculture Permit issued by the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Animal Industry Division, is required for private fisherman selling live fresh fish.

To sell seafood wholesale (i.e. to restaurants, grocery stores, institutional buyers or other seafood distributors or processors) in Colorado, registration as a wholesale food manufacturer is required through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability, https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wholesale-food-manufacturing-and-storage.

Labeling: See seafood labeling requirements are listed above. Refer also to the general labeling requirements.

Sales Tax Liability: General sales tax information.

Weights and Measures: All seafood must be sold by weight, with certain exceptions (e.g., shellfish in the shell and ready-to-eat food such as a meal sold in a restaurant may be sold by count/serving or weight). If you are selling your product by weight, you must follow the Colorado weights and measures requirements.

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