Ruple says NSIL laboratory professionals employ both traditional culture and more automated rapid methods, including PCR. “When testing products for compliance with SIP procedures requirements and export certification, we use validated methods from AOAC International and the FDA’s Bacteriological Analytical Manual,” she notes. “Since NSIL is International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17025 accredited, we also do in-house validations and verifications.”
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Explore This IssueDecember/January 2020
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Molluscan Safety Issues
Dr. Bell notes that marine biotoxins are a growing concern within the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC), a cooperative body that implements the FDA’s National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP). (He serves as the NOAA representative on the ISSC.)
“FDA regulates seafood safety, but states have overlapping responsibility through their public health programs and laboratories,” Dr. Bell points out. “Another established safety concern of the NSSP is naturally occurring Vibrios in harvest waters and shellfish.”
Dr. Bell says the NSIL supports Vibrio projects, including ecoforecasting by NOAA’s Coastal Ocean Services. “Ecoforecasting predicts how ecological events can indicate conditions that may impact human health, food, water, and the environment,” he explains.
Mollusk Safety: UK Focus
“When we talk about seafood safety at the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), we generally mean safety of bivalve mollusks, oysters, mussels, and clams,” says Rachel Hartnell, PhD, principal scientist for seafood safety at Cefas.
An agency of the U.K. government’s Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, Cefas operates two laboratories, one in Weymouth, Dorset, and the other in Lowestoft, Suffolk.
Cefas is the UK’s National Reference Laboratory for monitoring bacteriological and viral contamination of bivalve mollusks, and is responsible for coordination of the UK’s food safety official control program, with thousands of samples passing through the laboratories annually, Dr. Hartnell reports.
In February 2019, FAO designated Cefas as a Reference Centre for Bivalve Molluscs (European spelling) Sanitation. “This is the first time the FAO designated a Reference Centre in the mollusk sector,” says Dr. Hartnell, who serves as the Cefas lead for the center. “The mission of the center is to support the FAO vision for a globally unified system for shellfish safety.”
International collaborations are underway at the FAO Reference Centre. For example, in May 2019, the Cefas laboratory in Weymouth hosted the Joint FAO/World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment to update FAO/WHO guidance to reduce public health risks from pathogenic marine Vibrios.
At that meeting, 19 experts in the fields of genomics, epidemiology, risk assessment, pathogen detection, method standardization, and remote sensing from 13 countries focused their attention on how state-of-the-art methods could be used to inform risk assessments, Dr. Hartnell reports. “The long-range goal is the development of future international seafood safety standards,” she explains.
Commercial International Testing Services
NSF International is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., but the presence and scope of its seafood services are worldwide.
“We provide seafood services from offices and labs in Everett, Wash.; Elizabeth, N.J.; Santiago, Chile; San Miguel, Peru; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Shanghai, China; Busan, South Korea; Delhi, India; Bangkok, Thailand; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam,” says Tom White, global manager for certification and audits for NSF International’s seafood services.
NSF conducts full microbiological testing for seafood, including pathogens (Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7), standard plate counts, Coliform/E. coli, and yeast/mold, White notes. “For pathogens we run PCR analysis with culture confirmation,” he says.
In 2018, NSF conducted roughly 1,200 lab tests on seafood products, White reports. Testing environmental swabs from seafood processing facilities is another NSF service, he adds.
“The majority of our work is mainly with seafood processors, but we support a wide variety of clients, including canners and fishermen,” White relates.