Algal toxins surveillance
At certain times of the year naturally occurring algae in the
sea can give rise to blooms, which may not necessarily be
noticeable. Algae in these blooms may produce potent biotoxins.
These can accumulate in filter-feeding bivalve molluscs and
sometimes in other shellfish, such as grazing gastropods.
Eating shellfish contaminated with marine biotoxins may pose
risks: for those consuming the food, as well as for the
In the European Union (including the UK) there are currently
three major shellfish
biotoxin groups (PDF, 140 KB) that can be
detected in shellfish, which are subject to statutory testing to
protect human health. These are:
- paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins
- lipophilic toxins, including those responsible for diarrhetic
shellfish poisoning (DSP)
- amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) toxins.
EC Regulation 854/2004 prescribes the legal controls that are
placed on the production and marketing of live bivalve shellfish to
ensure that contaminated shellfish are not placed on the market. In
the UK, the Food
Standards Agency (FSA) is the competent authority
implementing and enforcing this legislation.
The FSA has contracted our Harmful Algal Blooms in
Shellfish (HABS) team to co-ordinate and deliver the national biotoxin monitoring
programmes for England, Wales and Scotland. Shellfish
from all currently classified shellfish production and re-laying
areas are monitored for toxins in shellfish flesh and water
for the presence of harmful algae. This work provides
up-to-date information on the toxin status of over 230 classified
areas across Great Britain, assisting the FSA and local food
enforcement authorities in safeguarding public health.
This work is supported by strong science and active,
high-profile research programmes that
develop, validate and apply chemical methods, and produce
laboratory reference materials.
For further information about our services and advice on
this topic, contact us:
Telephone: +44 (0) 1305 206600