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Scalloway Marine Centre secures E coli contract

UK - Shetland's quality control watchdog for fish farming has been awarded a valuable contract to monitor E coli in farmed shellfish in Shetland and Orkney.

SSQC Ltd, which is part of the Scalloway based NAFC Marine Centre, will operate the most northerly part of the national Food Standards Agency programme to classify shellfish harvesting areas.

It is part of a national FSA programme that classifies shellfish harvesting areas based on the degree of contamination by the faecal indicator bacterium in shellfish flesh. E coli is found in the gut of both humans and warm-blooded animals, which means it is a reliable indicator of faecal pollution.

SSQC has been carrying out the work for Fisheries Research Services in Aberdeen since 2005. This contract is directly with the FSA.

Analytical services chief with SSQC, Niall O'Rourke, said the new deal would improve communications and streamline the entire surveillance and testing process.

"We will now also be processing samples from Orkney as well as Shetland, which broadens our remit and widens our customer base."

Samples are collected from sites around Shetland and Orkney by official control sampling officers and brought to SSQC Ltd for analysis. Currently they process more than 650 samples annually for E coli.

"The contract is also extremely good news for the microbiology team here at SSQC Ltd - helping stabilise income for the next three years at least. It helps to cement our position and guarantees a substantial amount of work for us for the future," Mr O'Rourke added.

Carol Phillips, SSQC Ltd's development manager said E. coli monitoring is a very important part of the services offered by the centre. fand the new contract is in line with its business plan. " We want to build on the services we provide for the local food and drink industries in general and the seafood sector in particular," she said.