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Molluscan Shellfish Safety Committee - 29th January 2019

  • FSAI: David Lyons (Chair), Helen Carney, Maria Meghen
  • SFPA: Paul Duane, Brian Nolan, Aileen O’Sullivan 
  • MI: Dave Clarke, Conor Duffy, Joe Silke, Sinead Keaveney
  • BIM: Vicky Lyons, Geoff Robinson
  • Loughs Agency: Sarah McLean (from item 4)
  • EPA: Liam O’Suilleabhán
  • Irish Water: Valerie Hannon Kate Harrington Maeve O’Reilly
  • Industry: Kian Louet-Feisser, Finian O’Sullivan, Pat Mulloy, Bernard Whelan 
  • Apologies: John Harrington(industry), Paul Hickey(HSE), Terence O’Carroll (BIM), Jeffrey Fisher (MI), Andy Mulloy (industry), Patrick Murphy (ISWFPO), Micheál O’Mahony (SFPA)

DL welcomed the MSSC to the first meeting in the new FSAI Offices and there was a roundtable of introductions. MM will be moving to Brexit Team shortly.

1. Minutes and matters arising from the previous meeting (20th November 2018)

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

The updated ‘COP for Biotoxins’ and the ‘Guidance on the Management of Norovirus in Oysters’ are now available on both the MSSC and the SFPA's Shellfish webpages.

Action: MI to review the online HABS ‘next sample due date’ indicator.

Update: Reviewed and correct due date now displayed. 

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. DL presented the FSAI Brexit survey, carried out by the FSAI at the end of 2018. The presentation is available on the FSAI Brexit section. PD noted that the SFPA is recruiting for additional staff as checks will need to be increased if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. He noted that landings by UK vessels will only be allowed into the current third country ports of Killybegs and Castletownbere. Certification and checks will need to be increased. The pattern of landings by vessels may change as companies look to find a way to the European market. We may have more member state landings by vessels that previously landed into the UK. EU Transit via the UK Landbridge may cause delays. DL noted that transport delays increase the risk of food incidents.
PD and PM agreed it was difficult to plan for Brexit. PM noted that Irish businesses may have to look to other markets. KLF noted that new transport routes to market may be needed. DL noted the Irish Government is preparing legislation in case the UK leaves with no deal. Brexit preparedness planning also includes developing Dublin Port for the increased number of third country imports. SMcL noted that the Loughs Agency has the benefit of being established by the Foyle Fisheries Act, which precedes membership of the EU. 

3. Standing Items

3a. Update on Shellfish Monitoring Co-ordination

BN provided an update on shellfish monitoring since the last meeting in November 2018. He noted a further 21 samples were taken in 2018 for potential new production areas. From the data presented in the Annex B Report he noted the decrease in out of range results in 2018 and the overall 10 year downward trend. 

3b. Toxicity Summary Report

DC provided the 2018 toxicity summary report. He noted that there were no significant episodes of high toxicity in 2018. There were ASP closures in the South West in April. DSP appeared in Castletownbere in May followed by several more areas in June. This toxicity remained until October. There was little or no DSP carryover from 2018 into 2019. AZP appeared in August in Killary followed by Castlemaine in October and November. Low to medium concentrations of AZP, below the regulatory limits remained in oysters from November into 2019. Sampling frequencies have been kept high to monitor this toxicity, particularly to identify patchy toxicity. DC noted that there are no new toxin events on the horizon and sampling is now monthly, for species other than mussels, in all areas apart from the North west where it is fortnightly. DC noted there were two management cell decisions in 2018.

FOS noted that it is easier to gauge DSP toxicity than AZP toxicity from the phytoplankton results. DC agreed, noting that with so many non-toxic AZP phytoplankton species, molecular methods are needed to identify the toxin producing species. The MI received accreditation for the molecular method last year and is now moving to include other AZP species. DC cautioned that AZP numbers can increase very quickly, peaking within a week and putting shellfish over the regulatory limit.

JS acknowledged assistance in the development of the AZP methods, from international researchers from institutions such as the Cawthron Institute (NZ) and IFREMER (FR). The MI participated in a research cruise in 2018 which used on board PCR to detect AZP. The cruise departed from Bremerhaven, travelled around Ireland and back to the North Sea. The MI is.keen to progress its AZP research as relatively little is known about this group which can cause rapid increases in toxicity in shellfish. He noted only 4 of 13 known Azadinium species produce toxin. 

4. Biotoxin programme

4a. DC HABs2 project

DC noted that the new HABs 2 project has been very successful to date and the feedback on the new site has been very positive from industry. DC noted that HABs 1 will be turned off and so he is encouraging everyone to start using the new website and send in requests for improvements and customisable views. The new website can report on data back to 2002. The new system is streamlined and QC checked data goes straight to website with no delay for reports. The new database has been audited and no ISO 17025 issues were identified.

Action: HABs users to send suggestions for HABS2 functionality to DC by 15/2/19

4b. Review of DSP Toxicity in Ireland

Raphael Salas and DC have co-authored a Review of DSP toxicity in Ireland in Toxins. While researching the paper they made some interesting discoveries. Although the diversity of the Dinophysis species on the coast of Ireland is large, with 10 species recorded, the two main species associated with DSP events are D. acuta and D. acuminata. When D. acuta is dominant in the water samples, the DSP toxicity increases in intensity, and DTX-2 becomes the prevalent toxin. JS noted that the review was an aid to our understanding of the toxicity profile. The MI may consider reviewing the data in this way for other toxin groups. DL and FOS noted their congratulations. FOS noted how useful this type of publication is in the understanding of toxicity and helping to predict the future toxicity.

5. Microbiology and Virology

5a. EU RL changes

DL noted that the changes to the EU RL arrangements were partly as a result of Brexit. The EU reference laboratory (RL) for monitoring the viral and bacteriological contamination of bivalve molluscs in Cefas in Weymouth was replaced this month in accordance with EU reference laboratory legislation. The arrangements are based on the pathogen (eg E. coli) now not the matrix (eg shellfish) and are as follows:

  • The EU reference laboratory for the analysis and testing of zoonoses (salmonella) will be responsible for salmonella
  • The EU reference laboratory for Escherichia coli (Rome, Italy), will be responsible for E. coli. SK noted they are organissig a PT scheme. 
  • The EU reference laboratory for foodborne viruses (Upsala, Sweden), shall take over the activities for viruses.
  • The EU reference laboratory for the monitoring of marine biotoxins (Vigo) shall take over the activities related to the classification and monitoring of production areas for bivalve molluscs. CD noted the first meeting of this group will be around the October 2019 Biotoxin meeting.

EFSA Norovirus Baseline Survey for Oysters

Sampling for the two year EFSA Norovirus Baseline Survey for Oysters was carried out at 22 of the 56 active production areas in the country. Although the survey required sampling every second month, Ireland carried out sampling every month to provide a more complete picture. SK noted that all results have been forwarded to EFSA. SFPA has provided EFSA with the total quantities of oysters placed on the market per month from all dispatch centres. BN noted that Ireland is the only MS to produce a norovirus guide to assist shellfish producers. 

The EFSA baseline survey report is expected in mid-2019. SK noted the aim of the study is to establish the prevalence of norovirus and to assess the impact of potential standards on industry. As it’s an EU-wide survey the report may not show a breakdown by country. France is the main oyster producing country, so its results will have an important impact on the findings. SK noted that Irish data shows similar trends to other MS with peaks in January and February. Many areas were found to have no norovirus and A Class areas had a lower prevalence. Proximity to urban areas has an impact on prevalence. BN noted that for areas with longer term data, an established seasonal pattern can be seen year on year. SFPA will make the data available to the FBOs who were sampled on request. 

FOS noted industry’s point that often high norovirus levels are not linked to food incidents. DL noted that after the EFSA report is produced the focus will move to the Commission. It is likely that any future EU norovirus standard will be based on product on the market rather than in a production area.
SK noted that a BIM funded project for FBOs looking at norovirus levels in production areas and then in end product has found a significant drop in norovirus concentration post-depuration. While the % of positive samples is similar the concentration of norovirus is far lower. AOS said she hoped that the ‘Guidance on the Management of Norovirus in Oysters’ would be a useful guide in this situation as mitigation action can assist producers. BN agreed noting strategies of moving product to cleaner areas during high risk months.

6. 11th Shellfish Safety Science Workshop

JS noted that the11th Shellfish Safety Science Workshop will be organised along the lines of the previous science workshops. Projects that are likely to be highlighted will include: FOVIRA, Azadinium, microplastics, Primrose (forecasting). As there are a number of projects finishing shortly there will be lots of relevant material to present at the event. FOS suggested norovirus is covered.

The target audience will be industry, regulators and scientists. There will be a session on the review of biotoxin trends. KLF suggested there would be a better turnout if the event was held on a week with poor tides. FOS noted the importance of tailoring the information to the industry audience and there may also be an ISA event in the next few months. BN noted that the BIM presentation on funding, at the Shellfish Regional Information Event in Kilmore Quay, had been very useful to the SFPOs in attendance as they were able to pass the information to industry.

7. AOB

7a. Survey on Scallop Analysis

CD noted that CION had asked at a laboratory meeting if MS analyse whole scallop or edible parts separately. CD is preparing a survey for the Biotoxin EU RL on this.

7b. SPFA Breakfast Information Event

BN noted the SFPA are holding another series of Breakfast Information Events

7c. FDA Mission to Ireland

The US FDA will be inspecting approved fish businesses and other FBOs in March.

Next MSSC: 11am on Tuesday 2nd April in the Cork Airport Hotel