World Experts on Shellfish Safety Gather in Galway

Over 280 delegates from around the world and international experts in shellfish safety convened in NUI Galway today at the International Conference on Molluscan Shellfish Safety (ICMSS) to debate new developments in the science of shellfish safety.

The conference includes sessions on Water Quality and Microbiological contamination, viruses in shellfish, Quality Assurance and Consumer Safety, Regulation and Management and Industry Requirements & Challenges.

A key theme of ICMSS 2004 is the impact of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS) on consumer food safety due to the potential toxicity they can cause in filter feeding shellfish. Phil Busby of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority will chair a session tomorrow (Tuesday 15th) on the latest scientific research on Harmful Algal Blooms. This will include early warning systems for harmful algae and new methods of minimising the negative impact of HABS.

Mr. Alan Reilly, Food Safety Authority of Ireland, told delegates today that one of the challenges for the week is how replace animal testing with more advanced chemical testing methods now available. 

"Data from the Marine Institute, the Irish national reference laboratory, suggests a 98% correlation between the mouse bioassay, prescribed by the EU, and chemical (LC- MS) testing which the Marine Institute also undertakes.

"We simply must replace the mouse bioassay with other forms of testing. It is unacceptable in 2004 to use animals on a routine basis for testing when we have other methods available. New Zealand has replaced animal bioassays with chemical testing and we have sufficient data in Ireland to justify changing our testing regime. I would like to see this issue debated during this week and serious thought given to replacing the routine mouse bioassay with chemical testing". 

The conference is the fifth in a series and is hosted in Ireland for the first time, illustrating the leadership role Ireland now plays internationally in shellfish safety. Dr. Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, President of NUI Galway and Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute welcomed scientists, food safety regulators and industry representatives from over 40 countries at the opening reception in NUI Galway. 

In the last four years, Ireland has reviewed its shellfish monitoring systems and built a strong shellfish safety programme through cooperation between the national agencies such as Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the Marine Institute, BIM, and working closely with the shellfish industry and the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources.

"Ireland has set the target of building the best shellfish safety system in the northern hemisphere, closely modelled on the New Zealand system. This has strengthened consumer safety and has been a key factor in the expansion of the Irish shellfish sector in recent years," said Mr. Micheal Ó Cinneide, Director of Marine Environment & Food Safety at the Marine Institute, and Chairman of the ICMSS conference 2004. 

The conference is hosted by the Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), NUI Galway and the Irish Shellfish Association (ISA).