Marine Institute

New Shellfish Safety Reporting Website goes live

August 30, 2017

Pacific Oysters. Photographer Fionn O'Fearghail

The Marine Institute as the EU designated national reference laboratory for shellfish toxins and shellfish microbiology in Ireland have launched a new shellfish safety website. Incorporating a range of user friendly info-graphics and maps, the site will provide information on recent trends analysis as well as current status of shellfish production areas.

The new website has been launched to provide regulatory authorities, shellfish producers, processors, hospitality industry, public health officials and the general public with the most up to date information available.

The Institute carry out a year-round national testing programme to ensure that all shellfish are safe before being placed on the market for human consumption. "With over one hundred coastal aquaculture production areas farming a variety of shellfish species, and many more offshore areas being fished commercially, it is essential that an efficient and accurate method of communicating these test results is in place," explained Mr. Joe Silke, Manager of the Shellfish Safety, Marine Institute.

The open status of shellfish production areas is necessary before the product can be placed on the market. This open status depends on clear tests being obtained for a comprehensive range of shellfish toxins, and in addition, harmful algal species from water samples must be tested on an ongoing basis. In addition microbiological classification status is assigned on the basis of ongoing testing.

"Placing shellfish on the market requires speedy testing and reporting laboratory results. The Institute has strived towards providing state of the art processes and this new website will provide current status and a range of extra information that was not previously online" added Mr. Silke.

All shellfish safety data are continuously compiled on databases at the Marine Institute and are essential to assign the appropriate ongoing status to the shellfish production areas. The new website will feature new information such as the progress of sample analysis through the lab, recent trends in toxin and harmful algal concentrations, and maps to indicate the national trends. Further features will be rolled out in the coming months but the first phase is now available at www.marine.ie/habs.

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Notes to editors:
From time to time shellfish can become unsafe to eat due to the presence of naturally occurring toxins that come from the natural micro-algal plankton that shellfish feed on. This requires temporary closure until the product is once more safe to harvest.

The ongoing monitoring at the Marine Institute is carried out in conjunction with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Marine Institute are an accredited National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for marine Biotoxins. They carry out a monitoring programme to protect consumer health by ensuring that toxic shellfish are not harvested and placed on the market. The Marine Institute is also the NRL accredited for monitoring the bacteriological and viral quality of bivalve shellfish. They work closely with the competent authorities and the shellfish industry to ensure that Irish shellfish are produced to the highest microbial standards. Latest shellfish safety data is used to monitor the status of shellfish and finfish harvesting in terms of food safety regulations and the monitoring of naturally occurring "red tides" known as harmful algal blooms.

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