EU unveils change of test method for marine biotoxins

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, European commission

The European Union has confirmed that biological testing for the detection of marine biotoxins will be replaced by a more reliable chemical method from next summer.

The switch will see the mouse bioassay (MBA) ditched in favour of a chemical test to uncover the presence of Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning marine biotoxins (DSP) in bivalve molluscs like mussels, cockles, oysters or scallops.

The new testing regime, due to be launched in July 2011, will boost the protection of consumer health, said the European Commission yesterday. The proposal was formally endorsed by member states at Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) on Wednesday.

“The test has been validated by the Union Reference Laboratory for marine biotoxins, maintains and ensures a full protection of consumer health without the shortcomings of the biological test,”​ added Brussels.

Long-standing concerns

The EC raised concerns about the efficacy of the MBA last year. This method involves the injection of a shellfish tissue extract into the abdominal cavity of mice, with death of the animal signalling the positive detection of toxins. Of particular concern was the MBA’s ability to detect OA- toxin groups at current EU limits, which was labelled as “inadequate, leading to false negative results in official controls”.

An investigation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded MBA was incapable of detecting concentrations considerably below EU levels and therefore could not be used to monitor the effects of commercial processing on lipophilic biotoxins.

Standard operating procedure

As part of the new testing regime the EC has tabled a standard operating procedure (SOP), whose purpose is to detail a protocol for the determination of the Okadaic Acid (OA), Pectenotoxin (PTX), Azaspiracid (AZA) and Yessotoxin (YTX) group toxins using LC-MS/MS methodologies

The method can be applied to determine lipophilic marine biotoxins in live, frozen or processed molluscan shellfish “spiked and/or naturally contaminated”,​ said the EU-Harmonised SOP.

Adopting the chemical method will also spare 300,000 mice per year that either died or were destroyed as part of the biological testing regime, said the EC.

To view a full copy of the SOP click HERE

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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