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Molluscan Shellfish Safety Committee - 2nd April 2019

  • FSAI: David Lyons (Chair), Helen Carney
  • SFPA: Brian Nolan,
  • MI: Joe Silke, Sinead Keaveney, Jeffrey Fisher
  • BIM: Vicky Lyons
  • Irish Water: Marie Phelan, Maeve O’Reilly
  • ISA: John Harrington, Pat Mulloy 
  • Apologies: Paul Hickey (HSE), Micheál O’Mahony (SFPA) Bernard Whelan (industry), Ray Harty (ISA), Liam O’Sulleabhain (EPA), Dave Clarke (MI), Paul Duane (SFPA), Patricia Daly (BIM), Valeria Hannon (IW), Finian O’Sullivan (ISA), Bernard Whelan (industry)

DL welcomed all attendees and did a roundtable of introductions. HC has replaced Maria Meghan and will be working with DL on the marine contract. 

1. Minutes and matters arising from the previous meeting (29th January 2019)

The minutes were accepted with minor changes. Update: The Agreed minutes are now available on the FSAI's MSSC webpage.

JS provided an update on the online HABS ‘next sample due date’ indicator. This is now complete.

JS also mentioned for HABs users to send suggestions for HABs functionality to DC. 

2. Brexit

DL noted that if the UK leaves without a withdrawal agreement in place then there is no transition period and full third country rules will apply. FSAI are proceeding on the basis of a no deal and are preparing around this. The HSE have recruited around 40 EHO’s to work specifically at the BIPs. FSAI are looking at how Ireland prioritises ships coming into the country as the expectation is that the official laws will be properly enforced. 

JS queried if FSAI have considered shellfish safety i.e. processed shellfish such as mussels. DL mentioned that one issue is how the land bridge will operate. A separate issue is shared waters. FSAI are meeting FSA NI next week. JF queried if the group could have sight of the agenda with DL confirming he would check and revert back. DL also mentioned that the current policy is that there will be no hard border.

JS queried if there could be an impact on micro toxins and viro toxins. DL confirmed that there could be. 

JF mentioned that there would be preference from a research point that inspections are harmonised. DL mentioned that there are a lot of unknowns and FSAI are aware of all the issues Brexit poses. Trade has to keep going and Dublin Port wants to ensure minimum destruction to traffic flow. 

The FVO stated that if an establishment was approved on the last day of EU membership, it will continue under this control under new arrangements are put in place i.e. health marks will remain the same. DL also mentioned to note that this is all being discussed but that nothing is documented as of yet. The legislation is basically drawn up but that the main issues would be around electronic forms and databases. 

PM mentioned that Revenue has been clear with their instructions and that if there are any issues with paperwork, the consignment will be rejected and sent back to the UK. Third country deliveries require additional paperwork. 

BN mentioned that SFPA are doing research and mentioned he would send on the communication to the group. Update: Note circulated on 3/4/19. 

SFPA have 24/7 shifts starting to deal with Brexit implications. 

VL mentioned that currently there are 46 countries listed as third countries, with the UK becoming a third country this will bring up the number to 47 but this one country equates to all the paperwork from the other 46.

3. Standing Items

3a Update on Shellfish Monitoring Co-ordination

BN provided an update on shellfish monitoring since the last meeting in January 2019. Siliqua are in the fishery management plan which has been submitted to the management group in DAFM. 

In relation to Annex B, the out of range has been reported to FSAI. There have been 10 out of range results to date which is about 3.7% of samples taken. BN also mentioned that ASP levels are rising in flesh samples and Bantry Bay sampling has increased to weekly for all species.

Once SFPA receives the sanitary report there will be no delay from the SFPA side in terms of classifying areas. 

JF queried as to what degree is recreational harvest being monitored. BN explained it is not being monitored from an SFPA viewpoint. DL mentioned that the HSE are encouraged when inspecting a restaurant that has shellfish to query where the shellfish has come from and to look for the relevant documentation. If there is no documentation then the shellfish will be ceased.

3b Toxicity Summary Report

JS mentioned that the MI report is available on the MI website. The toxicity report circulated is from Jan to March 2019. All AZP levels year to date have been very low and there have been no closures. 

BN queried how long AZP could stay for. JS confirmed it could linger around until the summer but it is nothing to be concerned about. 

In relation to ASP, during week 13 there was a dramatic increase in cell no.’s Pseudo-nitzschia, this was tested by BCR to determine which Pseudo-nitzschia was present, seriata complex were observed in a no. of sites within Bantry Bay.
JS mentioned that ASP levels can go very high very quickly.

JS highlighted that the MI phytoplankton lab is under pressure with staff numbers and the number of samples coming into the lab. MI is purposing to combine some samples in certain areas for example Inner Bantry Bay. They hope to reduce sample numbers by mixing samples i.e. testing 1 sample instead of testing 3. This will enable them to continue doing this work and ensure that information which is obtained is not lost. 

JS also highlighted there will be no change to phytoplankton sampling just to the fish sampling. 

A discussion took place around the frequency of water testing. It was agreed that the weekly testing frequency is beneficial as it allows MI to see if there are any issues cropping up. BN highlighted the SANTÉ F audit in 2011 where SANTÉ F highlighted that Ireland was not compliant with the EU regulations. Being able to demonstrate that we have weekly water sample results got us through this. 

4. Biotoxin programme

4a. HABs2 Biotoxin module (MI)

JS noted that the new HABS2 project has been very successful to date. The phytoplankton lab is now completely paperless. The shellfish samples are logged onto HABS2 where they are manually processed on a spreadsheet and then manually inputted into HABS. HABS2 is working on automating this. MI is hoping this will be in place by May/June 2019.

Once the biotoxin part of HABS2 is up and running the next phase will be working on getting the website up and running correctly.

JS mentioned if HABS users have any suggestions on the functionality then please send them onto Dave Clarke in MI. 

5. Microbiology and Virology

5a Norovirus Management

Ray Harty requested this agenda item. This was in relation to on-going problems in Dungarvan bay with MOR mentioned that drainage area plans (DAPs) are planned and underway for Dungarvan and Baile na nGall networks respectively, and IW have engaged with the local producers and the relevant statutory bodies on IW urban wastewater operations and improvement plans in the Dungarvan area.

On the south side of Dungarvan Harbour surveys are on-going since late 2018. IW is continuing to engage with them on issues down there. 

BN mentioned that Dungarvan will be part of the sanitary survey (i.e. in the current batch of 10).

The matter will be returned for discussion at the next meeting.

6. 11th Shellfish Safety Science Workshop

The date set for this workshop is the 8th of Oct and this will coincide with the MSSC meeting. A central location was discussed for this workshop to take place i.e. Athlone.

The format of the workshop was also teased out. It was discussed that an interactive session would be most appropriate with little presentations. Some topics discussed included, norovirus and summary of the baseline study, Brexit, TTX, trends across Europe – HABS and toxin trends, shellfish disinfectant.

All agencies will be represented at this workshop i.e. BIM, MI, SFPA, FSAI and NIFA. NIFA have appointed Teresa Morrissey as executive.


SK provided an update on the micro side of things. An audit was carried out on the E. coli test lab at the end of 2018. No issues were noted and the report is completed.

There will be audits of the 3 other E. coli labs in 2019 – CLS audit is on the 25th of June and the other two labs must come back with agreed dates.

Norovirus testing for oysters will reduce and an email will be circulated with updates shortly. 

The report from EFSA on the baseline survey is due in July. It was mentioned that this information will be brought to MSSC meetings in future. JS mentioned that MI may be able to get a speaker from EFSA to attend the shellfish safety workshop. 

VL thanked MI from the Irish Oysters Packer group (IOPG) for their work on the norovirus sampling. This has been a huge benefit and results have aided IOPG members with their norovirus mitigation plans within their food safety management systems. 

7. AOB

It was mentioned that the FSAI food science conference is taking place on the 21st and 22nd of August and personnel were encouraged to submit any abstracts which they deem suitable.

The final section of the FSAI shellfish classification audit is being carried out on the 15th and 16th of April in Killybegs.

JH committed to sending BN the details around shellfish classification. 

BN has commenced a 4 year data set 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019. BN has asked for SK to review this information prior to circulation to group. 

DL mentioned the current FDA audit which is on-going; this audit does not include shellfish premises. The audit has gone well so far and when the final report is issued it will be reviewed. Any non-conformances that have been raised will be worked through.

The next SFPA breakfast event is taking place on Wednesday the 10th of April in Donegal.