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Organic shellfish standard announced by Soil Association

UK - Consumers will soon, for the first time, see the familiar Soil Association organic logo on one of our most nutritious and sustainable food products. Farmed shellfish - such as mussels, scallops, oysters and clams are about to be certified organic for the first time in the UK.

In response to increasing demand from shellfish growers, the Soil Association has developed an organic standard for the certification of bivalve shellfish production. Shellfish growers from Shetland to the Channel Isles wanted the Soil Association standard as a guarantee to consumers of high quality. The Soil Association also wanted to recognise the inherently organic nature of farmed shellfish.

The Soil Association's bivalve shellfish standard was considered by the Government's Advisory Committee on Organic Standards (ACOS) last month - and was officially recognised by the Government (Defra) soon after. This gives the green light for certification to commence.

Hugh Raven, Soil Association Scotland's director said: 'Shellfish are among the healthiest and most sustainable foods. Those produced in the UK are among the best in the world. Our shellfish growers are some of this country's most innovative food producers – and given the benign nature of high-quality shellfish production, they're a natural fit with organic certification.”

Peter Bridson, manager of the Soil Association's work on aquaculture, said: “Shellfish farming is often seen as being inherently organic. Organic certification will recognise this and reassure consumers that the shellfish they are buying have been grown to the highest standards. The standards require a greater understanding of site characteristics to ensure no significant negative impacts on the surrounding environment: wastes must be re-used and recycled wherever possible, and harvesting must be environmentally-friendly – avoiding dredging for scallops, for example."

Hugh Raven added: “The Soil Association has always insisted we would develop an organic shellfish standard only if we were specifically asked by shellfish growers or organic consumers – which we were. At the moment there are relatively minor differences between many small conventional shellfish producers and those who will shortly be seeking organic certification. For how long this will remain the case - as production scale increases and new technologies emerge - remains to be seen.”

The development of the Soil Association's organic standard has attracted support from two of the UK's leading shellfish producers, Loch Fyne Oysters and Blueshell Mussels.

Bruce Davidson, Managing Director of Loch Fyne Oysters said: “Loch Fyne bases its production on its core values of provenance, quality and sustainability. As these are echoed in the standards adopted by the Soil Association, it is a natural fit for our company to support the new accreditations. It will also help ensure that we can protect our environment in the West Coast of Scotland on which we rely to produce exceptional shellfish.”

Michael Laurenson, Managing Director of Blueshell Mussels, and chairman of the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG), said: “Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the freshness and quality of their food, and organic certification can play a big part in reassuring consumers that their food is free of anything artificial.

“Consumers increasingly recognise that Scottish shellfish is some of the freshest, most natural food available – mussels are currently enjoying a boom time with sales up by 20%. The Scottish shellfish industry works hard to maintain its high standards and we welcome the Soil Association's development of organic certification for the industry.”