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Molluscan Shellfish Committee - 11th September 2018

  • FSAI: David Lyons (Chair), Maria Meghen
  • SFPA: Paul Duane, Brian Nolan
  • MI: Jeffrey Fisher (up to item 4), Dave Clarke, Conor Duffy, Sinead Keaveney, Joe Silke
  • EPA: Liam O’Suilleabhán 
  • HSE: Paul Hickey
  • Irish Water: Maeve O’Reilly
  • Industry: John Harrington (ISA), Pat Mulloy (processor), Ray Harty (IOPG) (via phone)
  • Apologies: Aileen O’Sullivan (SFPA), Finian O’Sullivan (ISA), Vicky Lyons (BIM), Andy Mulloy (industry), Sarah MacLean (Loughs Agency)

The committee expressed their deep sympathy with the family and colleagues of Richie Flynn who has passed away. There was a minutes silence in his memory. Tributes were paid to his unceasing energy to work on behalf of the shellfish industry, his ability to communicate with any audience and to bring calm when necessary. His unique contribution to the establishment and success of the MSSC was noted with gratitude. His passing is a great loss to the shellfish industry and he will be sadly missed by the Committee.

There was a discussion on the future of the MSSC and the importance of industry representation. JH and FOS will continue to represent the ISA at the MSSC meetings. JH acknowledged that Government Agencies invest resources in the ongoing support of the MSSC. BN said that Ireland is unique in having an MSSC, noting that other Member States have identified issues with communication on shellfish safety issues. JS agreed noting that the MSSC is a good example of social learning. He noted that as there have been low levels of toxicity in recent years, a science workshop might be useful to update industry. 

Action: Shellfish workshop for industry to be an agenda item for the next meeting

1. Minutes – 12th June 2018

The minutes were agreed with one small correction. Update: The agreed minutes are available on MSSC

Action: FSAI to circulate a draft of the COP for Biotoxins for discussion at the next meeting. Update: draft COP for Biotoxins circulated on 06/11/18. 

2. Standing Items

2a. Update on Microbiology and Biotoxin Sample Co-ordination 

BN reported that 805 microbiology samples had been taken in the first half of 2018. Additional scoping samples were also taken with the aim of establishing the microbiological status of 3 razor clam areas. He also reported that there have been 24 out of range results to the end of August 2018. This is consistent with results from the previous two years.

BN noted that there had been some unusual high results that didn’t correlate to rainfall and other sources such as agricultural practices may be a factor. The presence of large flocks of birds may have been linked to the downgrading of one area to a seasonal AB. PH noted that a significant bird presence can affect results under the HSE monitoring programme for bathing waters.

Biotoxin Sampling Frequency

BN reported that the biotoxin sampling frequency for all species from all production areas is weekly. The only exceptions are East Coast razor clams which are weekly and scallops from classified areas which are fortnightly. DC noted that sampling frequencies may be reduced shortly although there is a possibility of toxicity in September.

BN noted a recent issue as an FBO was unaware of a sample frequency change. He noted that there are 124 contacts in the email group and there are occasional technical issues with emails bouncing back. JS acknowledged the great work of Richie Flynn, ensuring that important messages reached FBOs. It was noted that operators dredging native oyster in Lough Swilly need to be included in communications.
Action: Industry to assist SFPA in ensuring important communications reach FBOs.

Sanitary Surveys

PD noted that the SFPA is commencing its sanitary survey programme. An RFT for sanitary surveys is expected to be published shortly. The tender will cover 10 production areas. The first tranche will include some new razor clam areas. SFPA is open to suggestions on areas to prioritise. There is an 18 month timeframe to cover all areas. (Update: eTenders RFT for Sanitary Surveys published with a closing date of 16/11/18).

In response to a query from MOR, BN noted that the sanitary surveys would inform the positioning of the sampling points and should make the monitoring programme more robust.

LOS asked if all classified production areas are designated shellfish areas. BN explained that the classified production areas and the sanitary surveys are under EU Food Safety Legislation whereas the designation of shellfish areas is under EU Water Framework Directive. DL noted that the shellfish water designations now come under the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and there is no update of the list planned. 

Action: BN to send LOS additional information on the classification system Update: Classification system information provided on 12/09/18

2b. Biotoxin Summary Report

DC provided a report on the toxicity to date in 2018. The first closures of the year were ASP related and affected areas in the south west for two weeks in April. Dinophysis levels increased in the South West in May with one DSP closure for a week followed by more closures from early June onwards. DSP and AZP closed Killary Harbour in August but levels are now decreasing. PSP was detected in oysters and mussels starting in June and decreasing through July and August. As reported at the last MSSC significant toxicity has not been detected this year to date. 

DC reported that there were two management cell decisions to date in 2018, one each for mussels and oysters. A third request for a decision is under discussion.

DC reported that the January to August sample turnaround time was 98% within 3 days and 94% within 2 days. He noted that there was some instrument down time but the laboratory now has a back-up machine. PH noted that the turnaround times were impressive.

3. Biotoxin Programme

JS reported that an LCMS machine is currently being commissioned in the MI. The machine should be in use within a few months and this will help to ensure continuity of service.

JS noted that while there was some AZP in Killary recently, it is 2015 since significant AZP was detected. PH queried why the good weather this summer wasn’t linked to higher toxicity in shellfish. JS noted that there could be multiple factors involved and the conditions in spring and early summer appear to have an important role in the spring bloom and consequently the toxin profile for the rest of the year. The MI identified an offshore bloom in the Celtic Sea but it didn’t move inshore.

4. Microbiology and Virology

4a Guidance on the management of norovirus

DL explained that the draft guidance on the management of norovirus is aimed at assisting industry to place safe food on the market. In the absence of food safety legislation, the document is a tool to help industry manage viral risk. BN suggested including additional text on the importance of a well operated depuration system.

SK noted that the shellfish producers should consider characterising their areas using norovirus sampling to help them to understand the level of contamination. She noted that there are several factors to consider such as the seasonality and proximity to a sewage point. She noted that the EU RL has produced guidance for producers on engaging a testing laboratory and on best practice regarding laboratory methodology. RH noted the variety of norovirus limits in use in the absence of a legal requirement. DL suggested that the Risk Management of Norovirus in Oysters - Opinion by the FSAI Scientific Committee is an additional source of guidance.

RH noted delays in the reporting of overflows. MOR noted that there has been a significant increase in the numbers of incident notifications in the last 3 years following the introduction of notification procedures and the provision of training. It was noted that in August 2018 there was 10 day lag between an overflow and the related notification. (Update: VH explained at the 20/11/18 MSSC meeting that this was a routine notification of an overflow event and there was no incident such as an operational failure at the time of the notification) 

Action: FSAI, SFPA and MI to consider additional text for the norovirus guide and re-circulate the document (Update: Updated norovirus guide included in the meeting documents for the 20th November meeting).

5. Brexit

DL noted that the government agencies are continuing to prepare for Brexit.

6 .AOB

MSSC Representation

PM noted that the Inshore Fisheries Forums are consultative forums for the ‘inshore sector’. SFPA and FSAI both agreed that representation from the forums would be very welcome at the MSSC. Surveys by the MI have led to interest in the establishment of new classified production areas for razor clams.

Action: PM to invite NIFF representative

Next MSSC meeting

20th November in Cork Airport Hotel