New Research to Improve Seafood Safety

The Marine Institute is hosting a meeting in Galway today of scientists, seafood producers and industry regulators from 12 organisations around Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Italy. The EU funded project, called BIOTOX, aims to develop and validate new methods of testing for marine biotoxins in shellfish, and to develop cost-effective risk management tools and traceability systems.

"Ireland has set the target of building the best shellfish safety system in the northern hemisphere", according to Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute. "This has strengthened consumer safety and has been a key factor in the expansion of the Irish shellfish sector in recent years. We are committed to continuously building and improving on our shellfish safety system and have been successful in securing funding for this €5.5 million project based on Ireland's significant marine research capacity and competitiveness."

The Marine Institute will play a key role in the development, validation and standardisation of reference methods (LC-MS chemical tests) building on research capacity developed through NDP funded research in this area. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) will focus on development of risk management systems, while Oyster Creek Seafood Ltd., Galway will carry out research on the potential to remove toxins from shellfish in a controlled environment and University College Dublin which will work on developing a 'functional assay' for diarrhetic shellfish toxins.

Commenting on the BIOTOX project, Mr. Alan Reilly, Deputy CEO, FSAI said: " Through this project, we will be in a position to expand the use of chemical testing and move away from bioassays. Food safety is an essential aspect of shellfish production and moving to chemical testing is the way forward for maximum protection of consumers' health".

The Galway meeting marks the beginning of the implementation phase of the three-year project which kicked-off in the Netherlands in January 2005.