EFSA confirms big portion of shellfish is 400g

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Portion size, European union

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has confirmed its earlier opinion that 400g is an appropriate size for a large portion of shellfish, for marine biotoxins not to pose a risk to human health.

In 2006 EFSA was asked by the European Commission to give a scientific opinion on EU shellfish limits to protect human health, and methods for analysing marine biotoxins set out in EU legislation. If consumed in large amounts marine toxins can be neurotoxic, with symptoms including nausea, parasthesia and cramps, and carcinogenic over a long period of time.

However at the time of the Commission’s request there was not much data available on consumption of different shellfish types across Europe, which made it difficult to establish a suitable portion size that would protect even big seafood eaters from potential health risks.

Five member states subsequently yielded consumption data from five member states, allowing the portion size to be set at 400g.

The confirmation of this portion size has now been made as new data was receive by the Commission on seafood consumption in four more member states, Belgium, France, Portugal and Spain.

Seafood eating habits can vary wildly between food cultures, and especially between landlocked countries and those with a bountiful coastline. A pan-EU portion size should take into account the potential exposure level.

The member states with the highest consumption of shellfish were seen to be Germany, Belgium, Ireland, France and Italy. In Germany the proportion of consuming days exceeding 200g was seen to be 15 per cent, and in Belgium 11 per cent.

The new data were considered together with data in the EFSA Comprehensive European food consumption database (Comprehensive Database).

Marine biotoxins that can be present in shellfish include okadaic acid and analogues, azaspiracid-group toxins, yessotoxin-group toxins, saxitoxin-group toxins, pectenotoxin-group toxins, domoic acid, palytoxin-group toxins, ciguatoxin-group toxins, cyclic imines and brevetoxin-group toxins.

In July EFSA issued a call more information on brevetoxins (BTX), as it suggested the group of marine biotoxins could emerge in the region for the first time.

An expert panel of 21 scientists concluded that the discovery of new BTX-group toxin producing algae and the apparent trend towards expansion of algal bloom distribution, suggested that BTX-group toxins could emerge in shellfish or fish in Europe. They are limited at present to the Gulf of Mexico, the US east coast and the New Zealand Hauraki Gulf region.

Related topics: Policy

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