Aquaculture for all

Animal Testing for Shellfish Monitoring Phased Out

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UK - The Food Standards Agencys shellfish monitoring programme has successfully completed a move away from tests using mice for the detection of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and lipophilic toxins in commercially harvested shellfish.

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The phasing out of animal testing in the shellfish monitoring programme has been a long-term goal of the FSA. Without an approved alternative method available, tests on mice had previously been the most suitable way of detecting toxins in shellfish. However, the FSA and Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science) have spent a number of years developing alternative testing methods that do not rely on mice.

Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency, said: "This is a significant milestone in meeting the UKs commitment to reduce the burden of animal testing and has been achieved after years of FSA-funded research.

"PSP and lipophilic toxins can cause severe illness if people consume them, so it is important that our shellfish monitoring programme is as effective as possible at detecting them. In order to meet our commitment, we have had to ensure suitable alternative methods are introduced in all our statutory biotoxin testing.

"The hard work of the scientists involved in the programme has paid off and we are very pleased to announce that our shellfish monitoring programme is no longer reliant on tests using mice."

David Lees, Head of the Food Safety group at Cefas, said: "We are proud to be one of the first laboratories worldwide to have implemented non-animal methods for government algal toxin testing programmes. It is the culmination of many years of work towards this objective, long held by both ourselves and the FSA. A considerable bonus has been that the modern analytical techniques we have now implemented give significant improvements in test performance."

The FSA has written to local authorities informing them of the final phase of changes to its monitoring programme, which took effect from May 2012.