Long term classification of shellfish harvesting areas
Wednesday 26 April 2006
The Food Standards Agency's long term classification (LTC) system for shellfish harvesting areas will be implemented in England and Wales from 2 May 2006.
The system, which has been developed in response to comments received during a review of classification in 2002 and a public consultation in 2004, aims to improve classification arrangements in a way that is practical, enforceable, legally acceptable, and which delivers improved public health protection. The proposals consulted on and the final Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) can be found at the links below. Copies of these documents have been sent to all local authorities with shellfish monitoring responsibilities.
Although the current arrangements comply with the legal requirements of the new Hygiene legislation (Regulation 852/2004/EC, Regulation 853/2004/EC and Regulation 854/2004/EC) which came into force on 1 January 2006, the LTC system allows immediate investigation into all classification sample results to control shellfish harvesting in areas where high level microbiological results occur.
The scheme provides for increased monitoring and greater short-term measures through the establishment of Local Action Groups (LAGs), responsible for investigating incidents by way of predefined Local Action Plans (LAPs) for increased public health control and effective and timely information exchange and action. Draft guidance on LAGs and LAPs, which has been sent to all local authorities with shellfish monitoring responsibilities, can be found at the link below. It will be updated as and when feedback is received from local authorities on ways of improving certain working practices.
It is intended that determination of the underlying LTC status of harvesting areas will facilitate a more stable planning programme for the marketing of live bivalve molluscs (these are filter feeding shellfish such as oysters, mussels, cockles and clams), particularly from Class B areas.
As with previous hygiene legislation, under the new Hygiene Regulations European Union Member States are still required to put in place a programme for monitoring and classifying shellfish harvesting areas. Production areas are categorised by the level of microbiological contamination, namely the level of E. coli contamination found in shellfish sampled from a site. These areas are classified as Class A, B, C or prohibited:
- Class A - shellfish contain less than 230 E. coli per 100 grams of flesh
- Class B - shellfish contain less than 4,600 E. coli per 100 grams of flesh
- Class C - shellfish contain less than 46,000 E. coli per 100 grams of flesh
- Prohibited area - above 46,000 E. coli per 100 grams of flesh