Farmed shellfish in Argyll and Bute is safe, says oyster farmer

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People in Argyll and Bute have been warned to be careful when harvesting wild shellfish due to a high level of natural toxins.

Argyll and Bute Council issued a warning last week stating that Loch Melfort and Seil Sound contained measurements of algal toxins above the legally permitted level.

However, a shellfish farmer from Dunbeg wanted to clarify that produce bought from farms is safe due to routine testing.

Judith Vajk, of Caledonian Oysters, said: ‘Harvesting wild shellfish can be dangerous unless it is from a tested area. As shellfish farmers, we have to jump through hoops to get our shellfish sold.

‘We are regularly tested for E.coli, norovirus and toxin levels, which are carefully monitored.’

Members of the public are being asked not to harvest shellfish from the contaminated areas.

The toxins accumulate in molluscs such as mussels, oysters, cockles and razor clams.

The alert comes as raised levels of Escheria coli (E.coli) bacteria have been identified in Oitor Mhor Bay. A potential risk of raised levels of E.coli has also been found at Dunstaffange, Kerrera East, Loch na Cillie and Loch Riddon.

This was discovered due to monitoring work by Argyll and Bute Council’s environmental health team.

Mrs Vajk added: ‘It is around, but there are no farms there. It is all wild. If people go out and pick their own shellfish, they have to be careful.

‘Our water is tested every month to check if the E.coli count has risen. I know that there is no problem in Loch Creran.’

A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Council said: ‘Eating shellfish such as cockles, mussels, oysters and razor fish from affected areas can pose a risk to human health.

‘Notices to warn the public and casual gatherers have been posted along the shore. Commercial shellfish harvesters in these areas have been contacted by the council and steps taken to postpone harvesting until bacterial levels subside.

‘People are advised to avoid eating shellfish from these areas until further notice as a precaution. When levels subside, the warning notices will be removed.’

For further information, contact the environmental health team on 01631 567849. Food Standards Scotland can also be contacted on 01224 285100 or at scot/food-safety-standards/adv ice-business-and-industry/shel lfish/shellfish-results.