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The ECEAE has welcomed an announcement by the European Commission to replace the mouse test for the detection of toxins in shellfish, saving the lives of an estimated 300,000 mice a year. Marine biotoxins, which are dangerous for humans, can be found in shellfish such as mussels, cockles, oysters and scallops.
In accordance with EU food hygiene legislation, shellfish may only be put on the market for human consumption if it has been established, through regular batch testing, that they do not contain such biotoxins.
The test used is both cruel and crude. The mouse bioassay (MBA) involves injecting extracts from the shellfish into three mice and if two out of the three mice die, the shellfish is deemed unsafe for humans. The mouse test is considered unreliable by the EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) which published several recent opinions confirming that the mouse test was not accurate enough to use in ensuring human safety. In 2009, the European Commission proposed to amend the rules on the detection of marine biotoxins by adopting proposals to change Regulation 2074/2005.
On the 17th November 2010, during the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH), Member States backed the European Commission proposal to replace this test by a chemical test which does not involved the use of animals. This chemical test will be used to detect Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning marine biotoxins (DSP) in shellfish, and will, according to the European Commission, save around 300,000 mice a year.
Although welcoming this announcement as a major step forward, the ECEAE is disappointed that the mouse test will continue to be used for a transitional period of up to three years allowing Member States to adapt their testing methods to the chemical method.