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

MI shellfish safety website

The Institute carries out a year-round national testing programme to ensure 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,” explains Joe Silke, manager of shellfish safety at the Marine Institute.

The open status of shellfish production areas is necessary before product can be placed on the market. This open status depends on clear tests being obtained for a comprehensive range of shellfish toxins; harmful algal species from water samples must also be tested on an ongoing basis. 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 not previously online,” he added.

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.

Temporary closures

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 on which shellfish feed. This requires temporary closure until the product is once more safe to harvest.