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Shellfish Warning for Food Businesses

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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) together with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), today reminded food businesses, in particular in Cork city and surrounding areas, to only purchase live bivalve molluscs (LBM), such as mussels, from suppliers that are approved by the SFPA to place live shellfish on the market for human consumption. This advice follows the seizure by SFPA Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers of five tonnes of mussels which had been harvested illegally in the East Ferry area of Cork Harbour. This area is currently closed (since 23rd June 2015) for the harvesting of mussels due to the presence of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins, which can cause serious illness.

A member of the public observed a person sorting bags of mussels on the shore in the East Ferry area of Cork Harbour and contacted the SFPA. From the quantities involved and their investigations, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers believed it was likely the mussels were intended for sale for human consumption in the Cork area and, as a result of the associated health concerns, they confiscated the shellfish.

Susan Steele, Chair of SFPA, said: “The Irish shellfish industry has world-class systems in place to ensure that consumers worldwide can enjoy Irish seafood safely. When individuals ignore these systems they threaten public health and undermine the excellent reputation that Irish seafood enjoys.”

Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI said: “These mussels would have posed a risk to human health if they had made it into the food chain.  Consumers and food businesses should only purchase mussels and other live bivalve molluscs through reputable suppliers.  Food businesses have a legal obligation to source all mussels and other live bivalve mussels from reputable suppliers with the necessary traceability and documentation only.”

Live bivalve molluscs can only be harvested from production areas which meet the classification requirements for human consumption.  Production areas are classified by the SFPA according to the quality of the waters. In addition, the SFPA conducts a monthly shellfish sampling programme of all classified production areas to monitor the levels of microbiological contamination. Shellfish production areas are also sampled on a weekly basis for analysis by the Marine Institute to determine their biotoxin status and whether an area is open for harvesting. 

Any food business that may have concerns about their shellfish supplier or the traceability documentation provided by them, should contact the SFPA at 023 885 9300



Further information:

Eleanor Buckley, Communications Manager, Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority

Tel: 023 885 93 46/ 087 920 3658 or email



Ger McCarthy, Weber Shandwick,

Tel: 01 679 8600/ 086 233 3590 or email:


Editor’s notes

An establishment that handles or processes fish products is required to be ‘approved’ under EU regulations. Approval involves verification of the presence of necessary structures and systems to produce safe food. The SFPA works with the fishing industry to ensure that fish products produced, processed, sold in Ireland and abroad meet the highest standards of food safety. As part of its role in seafood safety, the SFPA is responsible for the approval of establishments processing and handling fishery products.

Approval provides each plant with a specific number which is incorporated into the oval identification mark that consumers may see on the label of seafood. Each Member State in the EU is required to maintain up-to-date lists of approved establishments and their numbers which should be made available to other Member States and to the public. The Irish list contains approved land-based establishments, freezer fishing vessels and factory fishing vessels. The list also outlines the categories of products and the activities currently ongoing at each establishment.