Official control monitoring (live bivalve molluscs) programme (Northern Ireland)

Information relating to Official Control testing within Northern Ireland waters.

The Food Hygiene Regulations came into force on 11 January 2006, and are the result of an exercise by the European Commission to consolidate and simplify food hygiene legislation across all food sectors. These regulations alter the requirements for the monitoring of the shellfish industry in Northern Ireland by the Food Standards Agency.

Biotoxin monitoring

The maximum permitted levels of biotoxins in shellfish are as follows:

  • PSP: 800 micrograms/ kilogram
  • ASP: 20 micrograms of domoic acid/gram
  • Lipophilic toxins (tested by LC-MS):
    1. OA/DTXs/PTXs: 160 micrograms of Okadaic acid equivalents/kilogram
    2. YTXs: >3.75 milligram of yessotoxin equivalent/kilogram
    3. AZAs: 160 micrograms of azaspiracid equivalents/kilogram

DSP (for species not tested by LC-MS): DSP toxins must not be present

For details of any Temporary Closure Notices and/or Warning Notices please contact your local environmental health officer for advice via the contact details further down the page.

The absence of information does not necessarily mean the area is free of biotoxins. It remains the responsibility of food business operators to ensure that their products comply with all relevant statutory requirements.

Phytoplankton monitoring

Water samples are collected from identified classified shellfish harvesting areas and analysed, by light microscopy, for various species of phytoplankton.

Alert Level Phytoplankton concentrations have been set as per the table below and harvesters should take the necessary precautions if wanting to harvest under alert conditions.

Alert Level Phytoplankton concentrations
Biotoxin Phytoplankton Alert
PSP Alexandrium
Greater than 40 cells/litre of Alexandrium
DSP Dinophysis
(Okadaic Acid)
Greater than or equal to 100 cells/litre of Dinophysis, and by historical data.
ASP Pseudo-nitzschia
(Domoic Acid)
Greater than or equal to 150,000 cells/litre of Pseudo-nitzschia, and/or historical data

Publication of microbiological results for classified harvesting areas in Northern Ireland

FSA in NI will use these results to classify each of the harvesting areas on an annual basis. The primary indicator for classification is the E.coli count.

Classification of harvesting areas
Category Result (Per 100g Flesh) Action
A <230 E.coli/100g of flesh May go directly for human consumption if end product standard met.
B <4600 E.coli/100g of flesh Must be subject to purification, relaying in Class A area (to meet Category A requirements) or cooked by an approved method.
C <46,000 E.coli/100g of flesh Must be subject to relaying for a period of at least 2 months or cooked by an approved method.
  > 46,000 E.coli/100g of flesh Prohibited. Harvesting not permitted.

Category A – 80% of the Samples must all be within this Category (<230 E.coli/100g), no results exceeding 700 E.coli/100g

Category B – 90% of the Samples must be at least Category B
(<4600 E.coli/100g)

Protocol for the Management of E.coli Results Outwith Classification and High E.coli Results (FSA Northern Ireland)

Chemical contaminant monitoring

As required by EC Regulation 854/2004 flesh samples are collected from identified classified shellfish harvesting areas and analysed for chemical contaminants including, heavy metals, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s), dioxins and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s). Regularity limits as laid down in EC Regulation 1881/2006.

Heavy Metals Maximum Regulatory Limits (MRL's)
Lead 1,5 (mg/kg wet weight)
Cadmium 1,0 (mg/kg wet weight)
Mercury 0,50 (mg/kg wet weight)
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) Maximum Regulatory Limits (MRL's)
  5,0 (µg/kg) for Benzo(a)pyrene
  30,0 (µg/kg) for sum of Benzo(a)pyrene, Benzanthacene, Benzo(b)fluoranthene and Chrysene
Dioxins and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) Maximum Regulatory Limits (MRL's)
  Sum of dioxins Sum of dioxins and dioxin like PCBs
  3,5 (pg/g) 6,5 (pg/g)

2017 results

AFBI Chemical Contaminant Annual Report 2017

2016 results

AFBI Chemical Contaminant Final Report 2016

Fera Chemical Contaminant Sampling and Analysis May 2016

Afbi Chemical Contaminant Annual Report 2016

Chemical Results Heavy Metals & PAHs 2016

Dioxin Chemical Contaminant Results 2016

2015 results

AFBI Chemical Contaminant Annual Report 2015

FERrt2017.pdfA Chemical Contaminant Sampling and Analysis of Shellfish from Northern Ireland Classified Harvesting Areas 2015

2014 results

Dioxin report June 2014

Chemical Contaminant Annual Report 2014

Live Bivalve Molluscs (LBM) Monitoring Pre Spawn (Winter) Report 2014


Shellfish Sampling Schedules - 2017/18

Contact details

Should you have any queries about the monitoring programme please contact:
Executive Support
Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland
10A-C Clarendon Road,
Belfast, BT1 3BG

tel: 028 9041 7700
fax: 028 9041 7726

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