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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Evolution of Molluscan Shellfish Safety

item Richards, Gary

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 20, 2002
Publication Date: June 4, 2002

Technical Abstract: Molluscan shellfish represent one of the few animals frequently eaten raw or only lightly cooked. Since they are filter feeders, able to concentrate contaminants from the water within their edible tissues, they have been widely associated with outbreaks of illness. Heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, pesticides, marine toxins, and microbial contaminants have compromised shellfish safety throughout the world. Microbial contaminants are the focus of this presentation. Regulations involving the harvesting and processing of shellfish have become important factors in reducing the threat of human illness. Implementation of coliform standards has significantly reduced the incidence of shellfish- borne typhoid fever and other illnesses worldwide, while shellfish depuration has shown benefits as a processing strategy to reduce microbial loads in shellfish. Microbial concerns surrounding shellfish safety in most developed countries today center around the presence of human enteric viruses and Vibrio species. Substantial progress has been made in developing methods to detect viruses like hepatitis A and the Norwalk-like viruses from shellfish while new and improved methods for the detection of pathogenic Vibrio species are available. Processing methods continue to evolve, demonstrating limitations in classical techniques, such as depuration, and advantages to new methods, like high hydrostatic pressure inactivation of microorganisms. The rapid pace of advances in the development of processing techniques and analytical methods for detecting microbial pathogens provide optimism that the safety of raw shellfish, at least from a microbiological standpoint, may be more certain in the foreseeable future.

Last Modified: 4/22/2015
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