No mice to test shellfish

Food Standards Agency approved analytical chemistry in shellfish safety test


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The BUAV has welcomed the announcement by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), alongside the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture (Cefas), that they have become the first laboratory worldwide to successfully replace
all animal tests with an alternative method in their shellfish monitoring programme, thereby saving thousands of animals a year.

In a statement released 17th May 2012 Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist of the FSA, said “This is a significant milestone in meeting the UK’s commitment to reduce the burden of animal testing and has been achieved after years of FSA-funded research”.

Previously, the FSA used an animal test known as the mouse bioassay (MBA) to detect marine biotoxins, which can be found in shellfish and are dangerous to people who consume them. This cruel poisoning test involves injecting extracts from the shellfish into the stomachs of mice and timing how long it takes the animals to die.

In March 2006, the UK was the first European Union country to introduce a far superior non-animal analytical chemistry method (the ‘HPLC method’) to test for paralytic shellfish (PSP) toxins. The FSA also commissioned to develop a similar method (the ‘LC-MS method’) for the detection of lipophilic toxins (otherwise known as DSP), which was accepted in January 2011, rendering the MBA redundant.

The BUAV welcomes the announcement that both methods have now been validated for routine toxin testing in all commercial species of shellfish, resulting in the complete replacement of all animal tests.

Not only is this a huge step toward reducing animal suffering, it is also an important example of how modern-day innovation can produce more reliable testing methods. David Lees, Head of the Food Safety group at Cefas, said:
“A considerable bonus has been that the modern analytical techniques we have now implemented give significant improvements in test performance”.