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Minutes of the Molluscan Shellfish Committee - 27th Oct 2020

Date: 27th October 2020
Location: Video-conference

  • FSAI: David Lyons (chair), Christine King (minutes)
  • MI: Sinead Keaveney, Pat Costello, Conor Duffy, Dave Clarke
  • SFPA: Brian Nolan, Aileen O’Sullivan
  • EPA: Liam O’Suilleabhain
  • Irish Water: Marie Feehan, Clare Cremin, Maeve O’Reilly, Valerie Hannon
  • IFA: Teresa Morrisey, Finian O’Sullivan
  • HSE: Paul Hickey
  • Industry: Nadia Ferguson, Pat Mulloy
  • Apologies: Vicky Lyons (BIM), John Hackett (BIM), Joanne Gaffney (BIM), Joe Silke (MI), Kate Harrington (IW), Andy Mulloy (Industry)

1. Minutes of previous meeting (28th July 2020)

FOS queried whether the French NRL study testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater identified live or inactive corona virus particles. SK explained that research into the corona virus has been accelerating. In August a study was published which gave evidence to suggest that corona virus shed by infected individuals is not infectious (inactive) and therefore the risk of shellfish contamination with covid is low.
FOS queried whether the MI are planning to do sediment sampling in the Cromane area following the Alexandrium event that took place over the summer. He noted that it would be helpful to know if there are cysts in this area which will result in increased likelihood of this bloom recurring annually. DC noted that regardless of survey results a management strategy should be discussed and put in place with the producers in the Castlemaine area. If Alexandrium cysts are found in the sediment it doesn’t guarantee that there will be a recurrence of this bloom every year. However, sediment sampling is planned for this area and the MI have been in touch with a number of producers who are happy to take them out to complete this sampling however this is depend on how the situation with covid develops and resources within the MI.

2. Standing Items

Update on shellfish monitoring coordination (SFPA)

BN talked the group through the Sampling Coordination document, Annex A Micro Sampling Report and Annex B Elevated Results Jan - September. From January to September 2020 1154 shellfish samples were submitted by SFPA and Loughs Agency as part of the official monitoring of Classified Bivalve Mollusc production areas in Ireland and 33 samples were submitted under a series of bacteriological surveys as part of the Sanitary Survey reports for Drumcliff, Gweedore and Sligo production areas. There was a total of 49 out of range results detected by the classification monitoring programme to the end September 2020 (approximately 4.2% of samples taken). BN noted that the number of elevated results in A classified areas was a cause for concern and a number of investigations are ongoing. BN also noted that the monthly average for out of range results is 3%, however 10.2% of results were out of range in August 2020.

BN outlined the biotoxin sampling frequency from the week of 16th October;

  • Weekly sampling frequency for Mussels on all coasts.
  • Fortnightly sampling frequency for Scallops from classified areas.
  • South West Coast: Roaringwater bay to Castlemaine inclusive: - Weekly sampling frequency all species.
  • All other production areas - Monthly sampling frequency for all shellfish other than Mussels

However, sampling for the South West Coast has changed as of the 26th October to it has been recommended that C.gigas from Valentia, Castlemaine (incl. C. edule) and Kenmare revert back to a monthly sampling frequency.

Review of Code of Practice for Classification Monitoring of Bivalve Molluscs Production Areas

BN gave an overview of the review of the COP for Classification Monitoring of Bivalve Mollusc Production Areas;

  • New Title.
  • Section 1.5 Updated legislation – covers Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/627, Regulation (EU) 2017/625 and amended S.I. 22 of 2020.
  • Section 2.1 Sanitary Surveys – updated to reflect how SS are conducted in Ireland.
  • Section 6.4 Responding to out of range E.coli results from the monitoring programme – registration document must record details of out of range results (i.e. “temporary B” for out of range shellfish from A classified production areas going onto the market following additional treatment). Requirement under Regulation 2019/627.
  • Section 6.4.2 Criteria for discarding results from the classification process - changes regarding contamination from wastewater treatment plants and heavy rainfall
  • Appendix 9.1 Shore line survey COP
  • Appendix 9.3 Sanitary Survey Template

PH queried the increase in out of range results seen this year and how confident are we that this product is not getting onto the market. BN noted that although there is a margin of tolerance for out of range results that can still remain an A classified area i.e. up to 700, any result above 230 is reported to the sampling officer and as much as possible contaminated product is prevented from going onto the market. PH suggested that an early warning system similar to that used for bathing water notices could be beneficial for the shellfish industry. This model pre-empts potential contamination problems using rainfall data and identified patterns. BN commented that the current classification monitoring programme should capture this data and be able to predict risk to certain areas and act accordingly e.g. seasonal classifications. PH noted that there is a time-lag in the current classification system for catching up with problems. DL commented that repeatedly changing the classification of an area would be problematic from an administration point of view and it is safer and more consistent to stick to the legislation. PM commented that there was a similar incident during the summer in the West and the SFPA were very proactive in notifying producers and delaying harvesting. SK commented that an early warning system for the bigger oyster production areas could be a useful tool to have to manage NoV contamination and this could be a worthwhile pilot study. However, every area has its own characteristics and site-specific problems and therefore its difficult to apply the same measures in every production area. DL commented that once we move to a NoV regulatory limit precautionary notices may be a good option. BN assured the group that every out of range result is acted upon.

A discussion took place around how the classification on registration documents could be altered to “temporary B” etc. if out of range results come back after the product has been dispatched. It was agreed that everyone should review the draft COP and a separate meeting can be held to discuss the amendments if required.

BN requested that observations and submissions relating to the COP be submitted asap as the document will be published on the SFPA website by 01st December 2020.

Toxicity Summary Report

DC talked the group through the Marine Institute’s Toxicity Summary Report.
DC noted that the main DSP issue has been the Okadaic Acid rather than the Dinophysis Toxin 2. Some areas are still closed, but most areas are open. High PSP observed in Castlemaine (highest levels on record since 2011) and therefore the conversation needs to be started around management strategies for the future. Looks to be following a similar pattern to PSP events observed in Cork Harbour.

Management Cell Decisions

No management cell decisions in August or September.

3. Brexit

DL gave update on FSAI Brexit activities. Most of the FSAI activities recently have related to engaging with food businesses. Some challenges as many food businesses are preoccupied with the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses. Assumption is that we are facing a harsh Brexit. Some concerns over the number of food businesses who bring products in from the UK but aren’t properly registered to continue after the 01st January and therefore some disruption is envisaged for early 2021.
The FSAI have a number of Brexit resources available on their website which FBOs and agencies are encouraged to engage with. For example the Brexit Bite webinars and training modules.

4. Microbiology and Virology

FOS noted that during the MSSC meeting in May the potential for Norovirus regulatory limits of 500cpg was discussed and this looked as though it was likely to come into effect, however since then a new report has been published which implies that this 500cpg limit may not be accepted by all Member States. AOS commented that there has been no progress on this since the last MSSC meeting. It is likely that a meeting of the WG will take place in November to further progress this.

SK stated that the frequency of NoV sampling has started to increase as part of the BIM risk management project. She noted that over the month of October there has been extremely low levels of NoV detected compared to the same time last year. The public health measures in place to control covid-19 may also have a positive impact on the spread of NoV in the community, which in turn could have a positive impact for oyster producers this winter. So far this is only an observation but will be monitored over the coming months. PH noted that the HPSC website tracks outbreaks and may have information on the incidence of NoV infection this year compared to previous years. DL noted that the FSAI are doing some work with social media tracking, and tracking mentions of key words associated with NoV on social media over the winter months and comparing it to previous years may be interesting.

5. AOB

Updates on EU working groups

AOS provided an update on the work of EU working groups. The WG have seen various drafts of changing legislation. In the latest draft of Regulation (EC) 853/2004 Pectenotoxins have been deregulated, which Ireland and most MS support. They are moving away from the Mouse Bioassay for PSP however there is disagreement on which method should replace it and therefore discussions are ongoing.

The Commission have also done a lot of work on Registration Documents, trying to adequately capture the complexity of the LBM supply chain. A model registration document has been produced however Ireland have queried whether it will be mandatory or voluntary to use this template. No response as yet. DL queried whether this group are also looking at electronic gatherers documents. AOS replied that she is not aware of any discussions regarding electronic documents.

Work is ongoing on the EFSA Scallops Opinion. Opinion on the Lipophillic toxins expected at the end of January and the Domoic Acid opinion is expected later in 2021.

Hand delivery of samples to the Marine Institute

TM queried whether there are any other options to replace hand delivery of samples to the MI as An Post can’t always be relied upon. DC commented that there is no way the MI can accept hand-delivered samples at the moment due to Covid-19 procedures put in place by senior management at the MI. BN noted that once samples have the correct PO Box number on them they are less likely to get delayed in the post. DC agreed and DL suggested that a reminder was sent out to everyone of the correct PO Box number and that it should be written on all samples being sent to the MI.

Irish Lights

Mark Healy from Irish Lights introduced himself and noted that Irish Lights are keen to engage with the shellfish and aquaculture sector to offer their support and assistance. Contact details are as follows:
Mark Healy 
Ronan Boyle 
DL thanked MH and invited him to attend any future MSSC meetings.

Next meeting

A schedule for 2021 meetings will be sent out in late November/Early December.