We focus on filter-feeding bivalve molluscs (e.g. oysters, mussels, scallops, clams), which can bio-accumulate both naturally occurring and man-made contaminants. Because of these potential food-safety risks European food legislation requires that bivalve mollusc production areas are subject to a pollution assessment, known as a sanitary survey, are monitored for faecal contamination and classified accordingly. Following harvest and according to the level of faecal contamination, molluscs may be subject to either heat treatment, purification in tanks or to relaying.
There are also requirements for regular monitoring for naturally occurring algal toxins, phytoplankton and chemical contaminants.
These requirements are termed 'official controls'. Cefas, in conjunction with a range of partner organisations across the UK (known as the Shellfish Partnership) works closely with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and local authorities (in England and Wales) to deliver these official controls, for which the FSA is the statutory authority.
Cefas provides a comprehensive testing service for algal toxins in shellfish, potentially harmful phytoplankton in seawater, as well as E.coli analysis. Cefas can also provide specialist testing for norovirus, hepatitis A virus and marine vibrio species in the event of human health outbreaks or other emergencies involving bivalve shellfish.
The European Commission designates a European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) to co-ordinate the activities of NRLs and to give scientific support to the Commission. Cefas has been designated as the EURL for monitoring bacteriological and viral contamination of bivalve molluscs.
Pollution problems in shellfisheries are best tackled at source. We work with a network of partners, including the Environment Agency, to ensure that the risks from pipeline discharges and other pollution sources are controlled, and to assist compliance with European water quality legislation.
Our science is utilised to support both public- and private-sector customers. If you feel we may be able to help, please contact us.