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NAFC Educates on Toxic Shellfish Tests

NORWAY - The NAFC Marine Centre will host a two-day workshop and training course on 17 and 18 September on the rapid testing of shellfish for algal toxins.

All shellfish producers and processors are invited to attend the course, which will be led by Hans Kleivdal of Biosense Laboratories AS in Norway, accompanied by a team from FRS Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban.

As well as an overview of control measures to hinder the harvesting and processing of contaminated shellfish, the course will also cover specific hands-on training on how to test for shellfish toxins using commercial kits. Ultimately, the programme will enable participants to integrate toxin testing as part of the food safety management system at shellfish processing facilities.

The training course is organised by the EU Collective Research project SPIES-DETOX – a strategic three year collaboration between leading national universities, government agencies, research laboratories and industry groups from the UK, Norway, Spain, Ireland and Greece.

The project focuses on the development of ‘early warning’ tools for the detection of toxic algal blooms and toxins at sub-action levels, and to develop procedures to remove algal toxins from contaminated shellfish to enhance food safety for shellfish products, as well as reducing disruption and economic loss to the shellfish sector.

Dr Hans Kleivdal said: “An important part of the project is to provide training to quality control personnel in the shellfish industry in the use of simple, sensitive and robust tests for the detection of algal toxins, and for the integration of such tests into the routine HACCP plans and food safety assurance systems.

“Rapid testing for shellfish toxins on-site enables an immediate response to elevated toxin levels and will be useful for making sound decisions before shellfish harvest and during processing. While traditional testing methods for algal toxins are highly advanced and not suitable for on-site use, the recent development of simple, reliable and rapid test kits has made on-site toxin testing possible.

“This proactive approach using preventative testing instead of traditional reactive monitoring programmes is the backbone of modern food safety management systems and ensures product safety in line with recent EU food legislation.

“In addition to the food safety aspect of rapid testing on-site, several operational and market benefits will arise from using these novel tools. The rapid confirmation of the toxin status of a landed shellfish batch will lead to a short turnaround time of live shellfish products and will avoid any further waste of effort if the batch is contaminated.”

Dr Kleivdal added: “In the process of exploring new production and logistical procedures and marketing opportunities, the ability to monitor potential shellfish hazards on-site provides the flexibility required to drive innovation and development of the industry. This will not only be beneficial for the shellfish sector, but may also make an important contribution to improving consumer perception of shellfish products as a safe and healthy food.”

Ellen Hardy

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