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Minutes of the Molluscan Shellfish Safety Committee - 5th August 2021

Location: Video-conference

  • FSAI: David Lyons (chair), Christine King (minutes)
  • SFPA: Brian Nolan, Aileen O’Sullivan, Sarah Buckley
  • MI: Dave Clarke, Patrick Costello, Johnathan Kelly, Leon Devilly
  • IFA: Teresa Morrissey, Finian O’Sullivan
  • BIM: Vicky Lyons
  • IW: Charlotte Prichard, Mark Dowling, Valerie Hannon, Clare Cremin
  • HSE: Paul Hickey
  • Industry: Pat Mulloy

Apologies: Kate Harrington (IW), Conor Duffy (MI), Sinead Keaveney (MI), Trish Daly (BIM), Liam O’Suilleabhain (EPA), John Harrington (Industry), Miche├íl O’Mahony (SFPA)

1. Introductions

Leon Devilly introduced himself, he will be giving the microbiology and virology update on Sinead Keaveney’s behalf.
Johnathan Kelly introduced himself, he is the new phytoplankton STO with the Marine Institute.

2. Review of previous minutes (25th May 2021)

DL noted that the discussion on scallops and the review of the Biotoxin COP which were scheduled for this MSSC have been deferred to the Q4 MSSC.

The minutes were agreed and will be posted to the FSAI website in 7 days. If there is anything that needs to be added/amended, please contact CK by COB on Wednesday 11th August.

3. Standing items


DL noted that there are no major updates in terms of Brexit. It is expected that the Commission will conduct a mission in Ireland in 2022 regarding operational controls at the ROI/NI border, however the details and the scope of this mission are unknown as yet.

AOS noted that preparations for the upcoming changes on the 01st October are ongoing within the SFPA.
FOS queried whether there have been any discussions regarding an increased emphasis on aquaculture in Ireland, such as establishing new production areas etc. as a result of Brexit. DL noted that he is not aware of any discussions of this nature. TM noted that the Seafood Taskforce is ongoing and is tackling several Brexit related issues. She noted that there is a desire from the Department to be more pro-aquaculture, however discussions have been more focused on how this would be funded, rather than the practicalities of how this would work.

PM queried whether health certs would be required for products landed in ROI from Lough Foyle. BN responded that anything fished and landed in ROI would not require a health cert.

PM queried whether there have been any discussions around making export health certs digital. BN noted that not as far as he is aware. DL explained that the detail require don health certs is determined by the importing country and therefore health certs can differ considerably. DL noted that the UK have been asked to produce a data standard and from this it may be possible to move to digital health certs down the line, however the data standard has not yet been produced.

AOS noted that specific queries regarding Brexit issues can be sent to the SFPA and they will be forwarded on to the Brexit/Trade teams.

Update on Shellfish Monitoring Co-ordination (SFPA)

BN gave an update on shellfish monitoring.

Official monitoring of Classified Bivalve Mollusc production areas in Ireland

  • 760 samples were submitted by the SFPA and Lough’s Agency in the first half of 2021.
  • A further 24 micro samples were submitted under a series of bacteriological surveys as part of the Sanitary Survey reports for Dungarvan, and as part of a preliminary classification programme.
  • There were 19 out of range results detected up to the end of July 2021 (approx. 2.1% of samples taken). This is currently a reduction on the amount detected during the same period of 2020 and 2019.

Biotoxin Sampling Frequency wef 01 August 2021

  • Weekly sampling frequency for Mussels on all coasts.
  • Fortnightly sampling frequency for Scallops from classified areas.
  • North West Coast: Donegal Harbour – Weekly sampling frequency for all species.
  • West Coast: Killary Approaches: - Weekly sampling frequency all Razor species.
  • South West Coast: Castlemaine, Kenmare and Bantry Bays – Weekly sampling frequency all species.
  • South Coast: Cork harbour (weekly PSP monitoring programme)- Weekly sampling frequency all species.
  • All other production areas - Monthly sampling frequency for all shellfish other than Mussels

2021 Review of Classifications

  • Review meeting completed 23 June 2021.
  • Nine cases were submitted to the implementation team for specific consideration in relation to their recommended Classifications.
  • Three of the submitted cases seeking to remove elevated results and eliminate the downgrading of production areas were successful; five were unsuccessful and one achieved a compromised position of a reduced reduction in Classification.
  • The 2021/22 list of classified production areas was uploaded on the SFPA’s website on 15 July 2021.

PM noted that there has been a large number of people staying in caravans on the West coast which has been reportedly causing pollution in the area. PM queried whether this was a county council issue or an SFPA issue. SFPA noted that pollution control is outside the remit of the SFPA. A discussion took place regarding pollution, out of range results and the affect they have on the Classification of production areas.

FOS queried whether details on when storm overflow systems are activated, i.e. untreated water being discharged, so that it can be determined if such an event was the reason behind a high monitoring result. BN noted that Irish water have reported 298 incidents to the SFPA which have been classified as minor. BN noted that storm overflow discharge is generally heavily diluted with freshwater and operate within parameters licensed by the EPA. DL commented that producers can use rainfall data when making submissions, however every report from IW cannot be considered as this type of data would not stand up to scrutiny.

Toxicity summery report (MI)

PC gave an update on toxicity.

  • A Management Cell decision was made on the 27/07/21 to assign an open status to the Killary Approaches for Razor Clams for the 21st July, after the E.siliqua sample for the 19th July did not arrive at the MI for analysis - Phytoplankton sample submissions were 100% compliant with the weekly sampling requirement & both samples of razors E.siliqua and E.magnus dated 21 July were reported as below regulatory limits.
  • No samples between May and august have tested above regulatory limits for AZP. Low concentrations of AZP observed in samples from West coast.
  • A DSP event started in late June/early July, which resulted in closures in Bantry Bay and Killary Harbour
  • Levels of ASP observed nationally were <LOD, with the exception of Killary Harbour, Corraun, Oysterhaven and Aughnish. No samples went above the regulatory levels for Domoic Acid, The highest value recorded was 9.8 μg/g in Killary Outer where the Pseudo-nitzschia seriata complex reached a maximum level 619742 cells per litre.
  • PSP toxicity did not go above the regulatory limit, however due to the dangerous toxicity of PSP the sites of Banc Fluich and Cromane East were put on a closed Status for Toxicity - PSP by Management Cell Decision on the 9th July.
  • All samples for PTX and YTX between May and August were observed to be typically <LOD.

Management Cell

DL noted that there were several MC meetings held to discuss and manage the PSP event in Castlemaine. Overall, this was well handled, and the industry responded positively. There have been no follow-up actions required to date, i.e., no illnesses reported and no border rejections. Good public health messaging was put out and the MI briefing session was well received by all who attended.

TM commented that the feedback from industry is that the PSP event was handled better this year than in 2020 and agreed that the industry was very accepting of the MC decision to close areas for harvesting, as they understood the significance of the risk. AOS agreed that the situation as handled well.

DL noted that in future it would be better to involve the HSE from an earlier point and queried whether Paul Hickey had any feedback from the HSE’s point of view. PH queried the outcome of the shoreline samples that were taken to determine the risk from recreational harvesting. DC noted that himself and PC had taken some shoreline samples of periwinkles, cockles and mussels. No PSP was detected in the periwinkles and low levels were observed in cockles, however mussel samples were double the regulatory limit for PSP indicating that there is a risk to health from recreational harvesting of wild mussels. DC noted that there is no further sampling planned, however a surveillance visit to the area is required to determine what is growing wild on this shoreline. DC noted that tomorrow (06th August) he will be going to Dingle Bay as part of the annual phytoplankton survey which will focus on the potential threat of Alexandrium and the diversity of Alexandrium ssp. in Dingle, Kenmare and the SW coast, as the distribution of Alexandrium cells and the cell density is increasing year on year in this area.

DC also noted that there was more information available this year regarding PSP as more phytoplankton samples were taken. Alexandrium is still present at low levels and while another bloom is not expected, it will be closely monitored.
DC noted that a research proposal has been submitted to DAFM for funding for a 4-year research project which will target PSP in Castlemaine.

BN thanked DC and the MI for their input and effort into the PSP event.

4. Microbiology and Virology

LD gave the microbiology and virology update on behalf of SK.

  • Recruitment for the lab assistant positions to work on the new BIM norovirus project will being shortly. It is expected that the posts will be filled by the end of September, ahead of the NoV season.
  • SK is in the process of completing a remote audit on the E.coli test lab, CLS in Rosmuc.
  • The MI participate din the EURL E.coli whole animal PT scheme, however due to issues with the condition of samples this will be discarded and repeated in September.

5. AOB


BN noted that a query came in from the Belgian authorities regarding 25 tonnes of scallops that were landed in Zeebrugge from and ROI vessel, which were there transported back to ROI. BN was able to track the product through traceability channels and confirm that scallops had arrived in Ireland, were tested in the MI and were compliant with Regulation (EC) 853/2004. BN commented that it was reassuring to see that the traceability systems were functioning correctly.

The next MSSC will take place on Thursday 21st October at 10am (this was mistakenly noted as 24th October in the previous minutes. The previous minutes have been corrected).