Our mission is to
help ensure that seafood is safe to eat.
We focus particularly on filter-feeding bivalve molluscs (eg,
oysters, mussels, scallops, clams, etc), which can bio-accumulate
both naturally occurring and man-made contaminants.
Because of these potential food-safety risks European food legislation
requires that bivalve mollusc production areas are:
- subject to a pollution assessment, known as a sanitary
- monitored for:
and that following harvesting, molluscs are:
- subject to either heat treatment, purification in tanks or to
relaying, if required by the classification.
These requirements are termed "official controls". Cefas, in
conjunction with a range of partner organisations across the UK
(known as the Shellfish Partnership) works
closely with the
Food Standards Agency (FSA) and local authorities (in England
and Wales) to deliver these official controls, for which the FSA is
the statutory authority.
Laboratory testing is an important element of food safety
controls. The Shellfish Partnership provides comprehensive testing
services for algal toxins in shellfish, potentially harmful
phytoplankton in seawater and chemical contaminants, as well as
E.coli analysis. Cefas can also provide specialist testing
for virus and marine vibrio species in the event of human
health outbreaks or other emergencies
involving bivalve shellfish.
European food safety legislation requires member states to
designate a National Reference
Laboratory (NRL) to:
- co-ordinate laboratory testing
- ensure testing quality
- provide scientific support.
The European Commission designates a European Union Reference
Laboratory (EURL) to co-ordinate the activities of NRLs and to
give scientific support to the Commission. We have been designated
the NRL (by the FSA) and the EURL for bacteriological and viral
contamination of bivalve molluscs.
Pollution problems in shellfisheries are best tackled at source.
We work with a network of partners, including the Environment
Agency, to ensure that the risks from pipeline discharges and other
pollution sources are controlled, and to assist compliance with
European water quality legislation.
To complement our statutory activities we also undertake a range
of R&D work. Areas of current interest are:
- methods for detecting and characterising pathogens such as
noroviruses and vibrios
- microbiological and algal toxin reference materials
- microbial source tracking
- chemical methods for monitoring for algal toxins.
Our science is utilised to support both public- and
private-sector customers. If you feel we may be able to help,
please contact us at SHS@cefas.co.uk.