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Minutes of the Molluscan Shellfish Safety Committee - 28th July 2022

Date: 28/072022
Location: Videoconference

  • FSAI: David Lyons (chair), Christine King (minutes)
  • SFPA: Aileen O’Sullivan
  • MI: Dave Clarke, Conor Duffy, Jonathan Kelly
  • IFA: Finian O’Sullivan
  • BIM: Vicky Lyons, Trish Daly
  • IW: Charlotte Picard
  • EPA: Liam O’Suilleabhain
  • HSE: Paul Hickey
  • FSA NI: Jenny Duckett, Will Wiltshire
  • Industry: Pat Mulloy, Patrick Murphy
  • Apologies: Teresa Morrissey (IFA), Sarah Buckley (SFPA), Gary McCoy (SFPA), Peter McGroary (SFPA), Sinead Keaveney (MI) Pat Costello (MI), Richard Donnelly (BIM), Carla McNeil (IW), Tristan Hugh-Jones (Industry)

1. Review of the previous minutes (26/05/2022)

(Page 2, final paragraph) PM commented that the SFPA were to discuss and review how results are communicated to samplers and come back to industry on this topic and queried whether there was any update on this. As there were no SFPA attendee’s present at this time during the meeting it was noted that the SFPA would be advised of this query.
Action: CK to advise SFPA of PM’s query.
Update: Email sent to the SFPA on 02nd August 2022 advising of this query.

FOS raised the topic of the Organic Mussels Proposal and advised that they are hoping for clarity on this issue soon. TM was unable to attend the meeting but in an email update sent prior to the MSSC she advised that IFA Aquaculture have received feedback from both SFPA and FSAI on this and are now working towards seeking clarification on the interpretation of the changes regarding organic mussel certification implemented under Reg 848/2018 from both DAFM and the EU Commission. DL advised FOS that as DAFM Organics are the competent authority for organic foods the decision on equivalence needs to come from them, as organics is not a food safety issue. AOS agreed with this on behalf of the SFPA. Both the FSAI and SFPA agreed that they are happy to contribute to the dialogue on this topic but will not be making a decision on what equivalence means.
Action: DL to arrange meeting between DAFM Organics Unit, FSAI, SFPA, MI, BIM and IFA Aquaculture to discuss.
The minutes were agreed.

2. Standing Items

2a. Update on shellfish monitoring coordination

AOS gave the update on behalf of GMcC. AOS went through the SFPA’s Sampling Coordination summary document, which was circulated to all attendees in advance of the meeting.

  • Total of 774 micro samples taken in Q1 and Q2
  • 28 samples taken from areas seeking preliminary classification
  • Greencastle Port Office have now taken responsibility for the following production areas from Killybegs Port Office; Lough Foyle, Tra Breaga, Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay
  • Greencastle Port have also added Gweedore production area to their list of areas
  • 23 out of range results detected between January and July 2022 (3%)
  • The 2022/2023 list of Classified Production Areas has been published on the SFPA’s website. AOS thanked the implementation team for their work on this.

2 b. Toxicity summary report and production area closures (MI)

DC went through the MI’s Toxicity Summary Report, which was circulated to all participants in advance of the meeting.
DC noted that there have been a number of closures from all 4 toxin groups this year and noted that the patterns have been unusual.
The first closures stated in April with ASP in the West. The highest levels of AST observed were 3x above regulatory limit in oysters. Closures were typically 1 week.
DSP was observed in the Southwest in June. There are currently no areas closed for DSP which Is unusual for this time of year. However, this event may not be over.
There was an Azadinium bloom in Bantry at the end of June/July which resulted in one site closure due.

A PSP event occurred in Castlemaine Harbour, this resulted in a long period of closures (7 weeks) and a number of management cell decisions. This has become a regular event since 2019. At the time of the meeting Castlemaine Harbour was open for oysters following a Management Cell decision and it is expected that it will be open for mussels soon. During this event mussels went nearly 3x above the regulatory limit while oysters remained below the regulatory limit. DC provided a summary document that was circulated to all attendees in advance of the meeting.

DC noted that the PSPSafe project is also ongoing and collecting additional samples to the National Monitoring Programme. DC noted that he would see if the partners from the PSPSafe project would be available to attend and give an update at the next MSSC.

PH queried whether the PSPSafe project is collecting other data such as temperatures and sunlight. DC noted that this was not being done yet, however next year they are hoping to deploy more sensors into the bay to measure other parameters.
PH queried whether we are always ahead of the curve in terms of intervention of PSP. DC noted that PSP has occurred in Castlemaine every year since 2019, so this is closely monitored. However, PST is not routinely monitored in samples, only if Alexandrium is present, as the MI don’t have the resources to test all samples for PST.
PH queried if we know why Castlemaine has become a hotspot. DC advised that the PSPSafe project has not been designed to determine where the PSP has come from in this area, however DC noted that Castlemaine does have a similar habitat to Cork Harbour, which has an ideal environment for cysts.
PMurph queried whether there is a reason why mussels had higher concentrations that oysters of PSP. DC explained that mussels uptake toxins quicker than oysters and this may play a part, however in 2020 oysters had a higher concentration.
PMurph queried the cell densities of phytoplankton. DC advised cell densities vary week to week and some areas within the bay have higher cell densities.
JK explained that he is currently isolating the Alexandrium cells from live water samples to establish monocultures and following this he will do a species detection on them. DC noted that many species have both toxic and non-toxic types. JK also noted that environmental factors can play a big role in how different strains react. DC briefly discussed the MI’s future plans for molecular work and FOS agreed that molecular work would be very important.

CD noted that PTX toxins have been deregulated under Regulation 21/1374 and it is the MI’s intention to stop maintaining their accreditation for this and to remove PTX from test reports and HABs. PTX toxicity is questionable and the data shows that it is only seen when DSP is elevated, so that will ensure protection. CD advised that the FSAI and SFPA have confirmed that they support the removal of PTX from the NMP.

3. Microbiology and virology

SK sent her apologies in advance of the meeting. DL gave an update on her behalf noting that the MI have published a paper on the impact of covid-19 interventions on NoV prevalence during Winter 2020/2021. This research used data from the BIM study comparing the winter season of 2020/2021 to pre-pandemic data. A noticeable decline in NoV prevalence was observed during the winter 2020/2021 period. The winter 2021/2022 period saw an increase in NoV prevalence however concentrations were still below pre-pandemic levels. The MI will be monitoring this situation again this winter. It has been agreed that an information session on this topic will be held towards the end of September.

DL noted that there was no update on the NoV standard and these discussions are ongoing.

4. AOB

The Q4 MSSC was scheduled to take place on the 20th October, however this has been rescheduled to Thursday 13th October at 10am. If you could please note this amendment in your calendars it would be greatly appreciated.