Council says shellfish firm fine highlights food safety rules

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A court case which saw an Acharacle shellfish company fined for food safety offences emphasises the importance of legislation surrounding the harvesting, handing and distribution of shellfish, according to Highland Council.

Sheriff Eilidh MacDonald fined GC Shellfish Limited £2,400 at Fort William Sheriff Court last week, following an investigation involving Highland Council environmental health officers.

The company pleaded guilty to two charges of accepting cockles and winkles without necessary documentation, both contrary to the Food Hygiene (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

Since bi-valve mollusc species such as mussels, cockles and oysters are filter feeders they are susceptible to picking up and accumulating toxins from their environment.

To reduce the risk of contamination, these species can only be harvested from classified production areas and waters that are routinely monitored for marine bio-toxins.

The consumption of shellfish contaminated with these bio-toxins can lead to illness, ranging from sickness and diarrhoea to more serious conditions which could require hospital treatment.

Therefore, before placing shellfish on the market, food business operators are required to ensure pickers and harvesters have only gathered shellfish from classified waters and that shellfish comply with the relevant health standards outlined within legislation.

Graeme Corner, Highland Council’s senior environmental health officer, who led his team’s investigation, said the case emphasised the importance of businesses fulfilling their legal obligations when harvesting, handing and distributing shellfish.

‘These legal obligations exist to ensure food safety and protect consumers from serious ill-health,’ he added.