Association of Port Health Authorities

Shellfish

To ensure the safe harvesting of live bivalve molluscs such as oysters, cockles, mussels, clams and razor fish from naturally occurring and farmed estuarine and marine stocks, Port Health Authorities are principally involved in the following matters:

Classification and monitoring of shellfish beds
Officers regularly sample each species for microbiological examination to determine the presence of pathogens. Before the product can be placed on the market for human consumption, each shellfish bed must be ‘Classified' dependent upon the detected background level of contamination as follows:

Bed classification

E. Coli presence /100G Flesh

Effect upon the bed
A
> 230
An area from which live bivalve molluscs can be gathered for direct human consumption.
B
231 – 18000An area from which live bivalve molluscs can be gathered but only placed on the market for human consumption –
a) after treatment in a purification centre or after relaying (followed, where necessary, by treatment in a purification centre); or
b) after heat treatment by an approved process in an approved establishment.

C18001 – 46000An area from which live bivalve molluscs can be gathered only after –
a) a relaying period of at least 2 months, followed, where necessary, by treatment in a purification centre; or
b) heat treatment by an approved process in an approved establishment.

Prohibited46001 +No shellfish can be placed on the market from such beds.

 

Previously, classification was updated annually by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the method of investigating pollution incidents with a potential for endangering the bacteriological quality of the harvest beds or waters was determined in a re-active and ad-hoc manner. In 2006, the FSA introduced a system of ‘Long Term Classification' (LTC) designed to improve public health protection as well providing increased stability for the industry. Initially, LTC will apply to compliant Class B beds having 90% samples below 4600 E. coli per 100g flesh over the past 5 years. The Local Enforcement Groups develop an action plan which defines actions in certain scenarios. Where unusually high microbial presence is detected suggesting potential public health risk, an ‘Action state' would be declared introducing short-term control measures such as a temporary classification downgrade or bed closure for a fixed period of time (14 days - 3 months).

Monitoring seawater quality and the presence of algal biotoxins - Amnesic, Diarrhoeic and Paralytic Shellfish Poisons (ASP, DSP & PSP) in both flesh and the sea water is also undertaken by Port Health Authorities in conjunction with CEFAS (e-mail advice available on ).

Purification plants
Designed to reduce the bacteriological load in shellfish flesh are approved & regulated by Port Health Authorities in conjunction with CEFAS. End-product standards for depurated shellfish are <230 E. coli/100g flesh and Salmonella not detected in 25g flesh.

Legislation
EC Regulation 852/2004, 853/2004 & 854/2004

Food Safety (Fishery Products and Live Shellfish) (Hygiene) Regulations 1998 (as amended)
Northern Ireland http://www.opsi.gov.uk/sr/sr1999/19990083.htm
England, Wales and Scotland http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1999/19991585.htm

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