Developing an Assurance Scheme for Shellfish and Human Health

We’re working with shellfish aquaculture producers looking at UK water quality and classification to increase production of high quality shellfish.

Water quality and the limited availability of high quality shellfish waters in many parts of the UK limits the sustainable growth of shellfish farming in the UK.

The Developing an Assurance Scheme for Shellfish and Human Health (DASSHH) project aims to create an improved approach to determining shellfish water quality that fully meets consumer safety and regulation requirements.

The issue of water quality and classification for shellfish production has become more important since the 1st January 2021 when the Brexit transition period ended. The UK’s status as a third country to the EU, has resulted in changes for the export of live bivalve molluscs. Currently, any shellfish produced in class B waters in the UK cannot be exported to the EU for purification.

Information on shellfish classification is available on the Food Standards website.

Fisherman working on dredge vessel harvesting mussels
A fisherman working on a dredge vessel harvesting mussels

What is the DASSHH project? 

The Developing an Assurance Scheme for Shellfish and Human Health (DASSHH) project was initiated  in 2018. The goal is to develop an innovative risk-based approach to enable the production of high-quality shellfish that fully meets consumer safety and regulatory requirements. It also takes in to consideration the variable water quality environment in which most UK aquaculture production take place.

Over the course of the project, the aim is to:

  • Improve the understanding of the sources of microbial contamination and how uptake by shellfish varies with a range of potentially predictable environmental factors. This allows producers to successfully manage and intervene to reduce the risk of contaminated product being harvested.

  • Assess the risk implications associated with microbial contamination. This determines post-harvest measures that can be used to remedy or mitigate this risk so product is safe for consumption.

  • Develop a risk-based management system that complements the current production area classification system. This helps regulators and industry to cooperate by using a more flexible approach to the application of the regulatory framework around water classification. It gives the shellfish aquaculture industry the ability to engage in real-time management of their harvesting operations.

The project outputs are expected in the latter half of 2021 and, along with a review of application of the Official Control Regulations for classification and monitoring of shellfish areas, will provide evidence on which to develop a risk based approach for shellfish management. This will form the basis of an assurance scheme that works with the existing regulatory framework and is approved by the relevant food standards agencies.

Fisherman holding a handful of harvested mussels
A fisherman holding a handful of harvested mussels

Who is involved? 

DASSHH is coordinated by Seafish on behalf of the Shellfish Stakeholder Working Group (SSWG) which is made up of representatives from the shellfish industry and regulators.  The Shellfish Stakeholder Working Group is chaired by the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB).

Links have also been made with similar work in the Shetland Isles led by Seafood Shetland and Shetland Seafood Quality Control Ltd.

Further information

For more information about the DASSHH project contact:

Eunice Pinn
Marine Environment Regulation Advisor
07876 035 723