ECsafeSEAFOOD – Priority environmental contaminants in seafood: safety assessment, impact and public perception (2013-2016)

Seafood is a delicacy of high quality, healthy and usually safe food resource. Yet, some seafood can accumulate environmental contaminants with potential impact on human health. Limited information is available for those without maximum limits set by authorities for seafood, like priority contaminants, biotoxins from harmful algal blooms and marine litter. In order to increase seafood safety to consumers and reduce human health risks, ECsafeSEAFOOD aims to assess safety issues mainly related to non-regulated priority contaminants and evaluate their impact on public health.

ECsafeSEAFOOD addresses these objectives with eight work packages (WPs) targeting priority environmental contaminants, including biotoxins from harmful algal blooms and marine litter.

WP1: Elaborate a database with relevant information required for risk assessment gathered from literature and national monitoring programs.

WP2: Monitor contaminants in seafood using an ambitious sampling strategy following the recommendations of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and assess the effect of seafood processing/cooking on contaminants.

WP3: Implement risk assessment (with data from WP1-2) and mitigation strategies to reduce the impact of risky contaminants on human health.

WP4: Develop fast screening/detection methods for relevant contaminants to promote consumers’ confidence in seafood.

WP5: Toxicological characterization of contaminated seafood in realistic conditions and use alternative toxicological methods to provide tools for the risk assessment (WP3).

WP6: Assess the links between the level of contaminants in the environment and that in seafood through controlled trials and case-study species, taking into account the effect of climate changes.

WP7: Strategy for education, training with clear and practical dissemination of results.

WP8: Ensure efficient project management.

The Norwegian Veterinary Institute will focus on biotoxins from harmful algal blooms and contribute in most WPs. After the database has been established, we will

  • Develop and/or optimize methods for the detection and quantification of selected algal toxin(s).
  • Monitor the presence of these algae toxins in seafood and, if possible, establish the relationship between environmental contamination and the toxin burden in seafood. This will also reveal the role of metabolic conversion within the seafood organisms. Edible crab will be used as model organism.
  • Study the effect of processing/cooking in the content of the specific algal toxins in seafood.
  • Contribute to risk assessment and development of mitigation strategies.

We will obtain and/or prepare reference material containing toxins as a complement to certified standards. This will be done by the culturing of toxin producing microalgae and the isolation of the relevant toxin(s). We will also obtain toxin-contaminated and non-contaminated samples of shellfish, crustaceans, echinoderms and fish from the field and by the preparation of contaminated samples from controlled exposure of organisms to toxin producing microalgae in the field and in the laboratory.

Methods for toxin detection will be optimized¸ including analytical techniques (chromatography and LC-MS/MS, biochemical assays, cell-based toxicity assays and biosensors).

The methods will be used to follow the toxin profiles in food in time to describe metabolism of toxins and the effect of food processing.