UK: Animal testing for shellfish monitoring phased out
Posted: May 20th, 2012 - 12:39pm
Source: Food Standards Agency
The Food Standards Agency’s shellfish monitoring programme has successfully completed a move away from tests using mice for the detection of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and lipophilic toxins in commercially harvested shellfish.
The phasing out of animal testing in the shellfish monitoring programme has been a long-term goal of the FSA. Without an approved alternative method available, tests on mice had previously been the most suitable way of detecting toxins in shellfish. However, the FSA and Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science) have spent a number of years developing alternative testing methods that do not rely on mice.
Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency, 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.
‘PSP and lipophilic toxins can cause severe illness if people consume them, so it is important that our shellfish monitoring programme is as effective as possible at detecting them. In order to meet our commitment, we have had to ensure suitable alternative methods are introduced in all our statutory biotoxin testing.
‘The hard work of the scientists involved in the programme has paid off and we are very pleased to announce that our shellfish monitoring programme is no longer reliant on tests using mice.’
David Lees, Head of the Food Safety group at Cefas, said: ‘We are proud to be one of the first laboratories worldwide to have implemented non-animal methods for government algal toxin testing programmes. It is the culmination of many years of work towards this objective, long held by both ourselves and the FSA. A considerable bonus has been that the modern analytical techniques we have now implemented give significant improvements in test performance.’
The FSA has written to local authorities today informing them of the final phase of changes to its monitoring programme, which took effect from May 2012.
Previously, the method for detecting potentially harmful PSP and lipophilic toxins was based on a test called the mouse bioassay (MBA). In 2006, the UK was the first European Union country to introduce HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) methodology into a statutory monitoring programme. This significantly reduced the reliance on the MBA test.
The FSA also commissioned research to develop an LC-MS (Liquid Chromatographic Mass Spectrometric) method for the detection of lipophilic toxins. The method was implemented in July 2011 for eight major shellfish species, resulting in another significant reduction in MBA tests.
Both methods have been further refined and validated for the remaining commercial species of shellfish, resulting in the complete replacement of all animal tests carried out for routine toxin testing.