This research project aims to assess and validate the use of MIST Alert™ for detection of toxins in UK shellfish.
The initial objective of this study was to assess the performance and reproducibility of MIST Alert™ for PSP and MIST Alert™ for ASP, in the detection of PSP and ASP toxins in samples obtained from the UK (2000) and Scottish (2001) shellfish monitoring programmes.
<p>The study was also designed to evaluate their ease of use by non-scientific staff in field situations (e.g. at shellfish farms and processors).
<p>The use of a field test could augment the regulatory monitoring system by providing an additional level of food safety through the use of testing at the 'farm gate' and by testing the end-product after processing.
The safety of bivalve molluscs for human consumption continues to be problematic for several reasons, one of which is the presence of marine biotoxins such as diarrhetic, paralytic and amnesic shellfish poisoning (DSP, PSP, ASP) toxins.
<p>DSP toxins are associated with nausea and diarrhoea, while both the PSP and ASP toxin groups produce neurotoxins, which can lead to severe illness and death in humans.
<p>Current EU regulations, which have been enacted into UK legislation, require the Competent Authority to monitor shellfish for the presence of these toxins.
<p>To date, the main tool for DSP and PSP toxin monitoring has been a bioassay (MBA) which is known to be susceptible to matrix interference and can underestimate.
<p>The Agency is keen to move to alternatives to the bioassay, such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC is used for ASP monitoring and, although accurate, is costly and requires high maintenance and skilled operators.
<p>The regulations also require that end-product testing is undertaken. However, current methods do not allow this to be undertaken, particularly on-site. Hence, there is an obvious requirement for simple, cheap, quick and accurate detection methods for DSP, PSP and ASP toxins in shellfish.
<p>Such a method for PSP and ASP toxins, in the form of a commercially available test kit called MIST Alert™, has been developed which utilises immuno-chromatography in a dipstick format.
<p>This technology is not presently available for DSP toxins although the manufacturers are currently developing further kits for compounds associated with DSP.
<p>The purpose of this project was to assess, validate and make recommendations to the Food Standards Agency on the use of MIST Alert™ for PSP and ASP detection in the UK monitoring programmes and end-product testing.
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/" target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.