What’s wrong with selling scallops in their shell?

It’s not illegal in other European countries – so why here?

Have you ever had the chance to take a scallop live from its shell and watch it pulsate in your hand? Chances are, you haven’t.

For some reason it is illegal to sell scallops in their shell in Ireland. You would imagine this is for our safety, but while in top restaurants in England and Denmark, all scallops arrived alive in their shells. When they came, we would take to opening them and cleaning them.

Why can't we buy scallops in their shell? Do our health officials not trust us? Or is it something they know, that the rest of Europe doesn't?

I once saw an amazing demonstration by French chef Alain Passard cooking a scallop in it’s shell. This is not the same as presenting them in shell, which many of our restaurants have to do in Ireland. Scallops pair wonderfully with grilled black pudding and cauliflower purée. It’s a dish we’ve had on the menu in Cava for nearly 10 years.


Just another commodity?

As well as being illegal to sell scallops in their shell it’s also illegal to buy hand-dived scallops in Ireland. Is this for the benefit of the shellfish? It doesn’t seem to be so as the only legal way of fishing a scallop is to dredge the sea floor. This is an awful practice that we don’t seem to mind doing. So much for sustainability.

We market Ireland as a land of saints and scholars but then give food the short change. Our writers have won international acclaim throughout the 20th and 21st century, from Samuel Beckett to Mike McCormack. When will we give food the same time? When will we stop treating food as just another commodity to be bought and sold to the greatest number of people?

Our laws surrounding scallops are an example of the ways in which we fail to support our indigenous food culture. Let’s let our food live, then we’ll receive international acclaim.