Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

April 11, 2006 12:20 ET

CFIA: What You Need to Know Before Harvesting Shellfish this Summer

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 11, 2006) -

Notice to Food Editors

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is issuing a food safety fact sheet: What you need to know before harvesting shellfish this summer to remind consumers about safe shellfish harvesting.

Bivalve shellfish (also known as molluscs) are an excellent source of protein, are high in essential minerals, and low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Bivalve shellfish have a hinged two-part shell. They include oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and cockles.

Bivalve shellfish are highly sensitive to the quality of their marine environment. They feed on microscopic plants that can sometimes produce marine biotoxins, which can build up in their tissues. Eating shellfish with high levels of these biotoxins can lead to serious and potentially fatal illness. Bacteria, viruses, metals and contaminants may also build up in the tissues of bivalve shellfish and cause food safety concerns for humans.

The attached fact sheet can also be viewed, along with additional food safety information, on the CFIA's Web site at www.inspection.gc.ca.

Thanks for helping us get this important food safety message to consumers.

Fact Sheet

What You Need To Know Before Harvesting Shellfish This Summer

Bivalve shellfish (also known as molluscs) are an excellent source of protein, are high in essential minerals, and low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Bivalve shellfish have a hinged two-part shell. They include oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and cockles.

Bivalve shellfish are highly sensitive to the quality of their marine environment. They feed on microscopic plants that can sometimes produce marine biotoxins, which can build up in their tissues. Eating shellfish with high levels of these biotoxins can lead to serious and potentially fatal illness. Bacteria, viruses, metals and contaminants may also build up in the tissues of bivalve shellfish and cause food safety concerns for humans.

What can I do to protect myself and my family?



- Be cautious when harvesting bivalve shellfish. It is your
responsibility to call your nearest Fisheries and Oceans Canada
(DFO) office (listed in the local telephone directory) to find out
which areas are assigned as "open" for bivalve shellfish
harvesting. An "open" area refers to a safe harvest area that is
subject to monitoring and testing, and where harvesting is a legal
activity. When an area is officially "closed," it is illegal to
harvest bivalve shellfish in that area for any purpose, unless a
special licence is issued.

- Updates on the opening and closing of harvesting areas are
communicated to the public though local media, notices posted in
closed areas, and information provided by local DFO offices.

- Purchase bivalve shellfish only from suppliers you trust and those
that have harvested from open areas approved by Fisheries and
Oceans Canada.

- Bivalve shellfish should be refrigerated or frozen until
consumption.

- Cooking bivalve shellfish does not always destroy toxins or other
contaminants. Properly cooked shellfish can still be toxic.

- Anyone who feels ill after eating bivalve shellfish should
immediately seek medical attention.

- Bivalve shellfish can have high levels of marine toxins during any
given month, depending on environmental conditions.

- Bivalve shellfish poisoning can also occur in other countries.
Tourists should be cautious when consuming bivalve shellfish
abroad.

For more information on food-borne illness and safe food handling
practices, visit the CFIA's website at www.inspection.gc.ca

To find out which bivalve shellfish harvesting areas are open, call
your nearest DFO office listed in the blue pages of your local
telephone directories.

For more information, to speak with a Canadian Food Inspection Agency
food safety spokesperson, or to arrange a media interview, you can
contact:

Atlantic: Noella LeBlanc 506-851-3331
Ontario: Marilyn Taylor (519) 837-5852
Quebec: Jean-Francois Bolduc 514-283-3815 (253)
West: Ruth Anne Partridge 403-292-6733

or

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Media Relations in Ottawa
at (613) 228-6682
Fisheries and Oceans Canada Media Relations: 613-990-7537
Environment Canada Media Relations: 819-953-4016



Contact Information

  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ottawa
    Media Relations
    (613) 228-6682