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Mollusc monitoring

October 17, 2011

The Column

The Column, The Column-10-17-2011, Volume 7, Issue 19

A new method for testing shellfish for toxins is being adopted more widely for use on oysters and scallops thanks to Food Standards Agency research undertaken by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS). Previously a bioassay method was used for testing the toxins that are capable of causing serious illness in humans; however, this method involved the use of mice. In the new method no animals are used showing the agency?s commitment to adopting more humane methods for testing.

A new method for testing shellfish for toxins is being adopted more widely for use on oysters and scallops thanks to Food Standards Agency research undertaken by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS). Previously a bioassay method was used for testing the toxins that are capable of causing serious illness in humans; however, this method involved the use of mice. In the new method no animals are used showing the agency’s commitment to adopting more humane methods for testing.

In recent years, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) has been introduced into the official monitoring programme for the detection of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins in mussels, cockles, razors and hard clams. In Britain, the method has been extended for other commercially important species of shellfish including whole king and queen scallops, oysters and four additional clam species with efforts being made in Northern Ireland to adopt this method for these other species. The UK is the first member state in the European Union (EU) to use this method as part of its statutory monitoring programme.

Liz Redmond, Head of Hygiene and Microbiology at the agency said, “The agency places great importance on reducing the use of mice in laboratory testing. It has taken many years of research to ensure the new chemical test is as effective at protecting public health as its predecessor. This effort has been worthwhile and we are very pleased the new method can now be extended to such a large proportion of the shellfish market.”

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.