This page deals with your duties when gathering, handling and selling live bivalve molluscs, eg, clams, cockles, mussels, oysters, etc. The commercial production and sale of these is strictly controlled as they have the potential to cause serious illness due to the way in which they feed.
The consumption of contaminated shellfish can cause illness with a range of symptoms from vomiting and diarrhoea to partial paralysis and even death. Live bivalve molluscs are filter feeders therefore any contaminants in the water such as E.coli, viruses and algal toxins can be retained in their flesh. It is critical that gatherers and merchants comply with the shellfish legislation to prevent food poisoning occurring.
EC Regulations 853/2004 and 854/2004 set out criteria relating to the commercial production and sale of live bivalve molluscs from classified production areas. These regulations are law in the UK and are implemented by means of the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.
Local Authorities carry out monthly bacteriological sampling of production areas. The results are used, by the Food Standards Agency, to classify these areas according to the E.coli levels in the shellfish sampled.
The classification determines the areas where shellfish can be collected from and how the shellfish have to be treated, after harvesting, to ensure they are safe to eat.
Non-filter feeding gastropods such as whelks and periwinkles are no longer required to be harvested from classified areas.
Registration documents are an important link in a chain of public health control measures designed to ensure that shellfish placed on the market are safe to eat. It is therefore essential that the origin of the shellfish is known and that this traceability is maintained from harvesting to final sale.
There is a legal requirement for each batch or consignment of live bivalve molluscs or live shellfish being removed from a designated shellfish production area, or in the case of non-filter feeding gastropods such as whelks and periwinkles, from unclassified areas, to be accompanied by a registration document.
If shellfish are harvested from unclassified or prohibited beds or a batch of live shellfish is not accompanied by a completed registration document, food authorities are empowered to seize them and seek an order for their destruction through the Court.
Further charges can also be brought against the gatherer. A person found guilty of an offence under these regulations can be subject to a fine, and/or imprisonment of up to two years.
This page is based on the Shellfish information leaflet above produced by the Southern Shellfish Liaison Group.