Significant progress towards improving seafood safety in Europe is being made by the EC-funded ECsafeSEAFOOD project. The project is assessing food safety issues related to priority contaminants present in seafood as a result of environmental contamination (including those originating from harmful algal blooms and those associated with marine litter) and evaluating their impact on public health.
Progress has already been made by the project in monitoring selected priority contaminants in seafood species, and developing reliable and cost-effective detection tools for those contaminants. The ECsafeSEAFOOD project held its fourth coordination meeting in Hirtshals, Denmark, from 18-20 June 2014 during which the advances made so far were presented.
Dr Antonio Marques, ECsafeSEAFOOD project coordinator, said: "The project is currently in a crucial stage and interesting outputs are beginning to emerge. The advances made so far are enormous. All partners are enthusiastic about accomplishing the objectives set for the project and several collaborations have also been established between the partners, which illustrate the excellent work environment in the project."
Outputs of the project include the recent results from a monitoring scheme which assessed the presence of contaminants in seafood in hotspot areas, enabling the partners to choose which relevant priority environmental contaminants to study further during the project. Contaminant monitoring is now being conducted for commercial seafood species.
Another output tackles public concern surrounding pharmaceuticals released into surface waters. This involved the development of an efficient method for detection of pharmaceutical residues from bivalves using low detection methods.
EU funded ECsafeSEAFOOD project
Further novel methods for screening, detection and extraction of different toxins are also being developed at this stage of the project. The optimisation of bioaccessibility and bioavailability tools for assessing the toxicological impact of contaminants is almost complete.
A recently conducted consumer survey is currently being analysed in order to understand consumer preferences and concerns with regard to seafood safety. The survey collected nearly 3,000 responses from Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Information gathered from the survey and the contaminants database is being combined with data from monitoring priority contaminants in seafood in order to implement realistic risk assessment using probabilistic tools. Mitigation strategies are also being addressed at this stage of the project.
In order to help consumers utilise the results of ECsafeSEAFOOD, preliminary trials of an online consumer tool have been made, which will ultimately allow consumers to access nutrient and contaminant profiles of seafood on demand.