Bivalve shellfish such as oysters, mussels, clams and scallops are viewed as seafood delicacies. However the consumption of such shellfish may pose a public health risk under certain circumstances, particularly when they are eaten raw or only lightly cooked. In the absence of proper food safety controls for shellfish harvesting and processing the risk of illness and deaths linked to shellfish consumption is significant.
Tasmania has adopted an internationally accepted program for the reduction of food safety risks of shellfish consumption. This program has been successfully carried out by Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (TSQAP) since the mid 1980s, allowing Tasmanian shellfish to enjoy an enviable food safety record.
In carrying out its role the TSQAP implements the Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program. The basis of this program is to ensure that shellfish are only harvested from waters that are shown to be free of harmful contaminants. If shellfish are grown in clean, unpolluted waters they should be safe to eat.
The implementation of the ASQAP requires each growing area to have
- A comprehensive sanitary survey which includes classification and management plan development
- An ongoing water and shellfish bacteriological monitoring program
- A continuous environmental monitoring program to ensure that harvesting only takes place within management plan criteria
- A biotoxin monitoring program and management plan
- A chemical residue testing program
- An annual review of both the recent data collected and the current management plan.
The TSQAP focuses on commercial shellfish growing areas and maintains a list of the current harvest status of every commercial growing area. Whilst recreational harvest areas are not included on this list, the Director of Public Health issues advisories to recreational harvesters, including specific advisories when information indicates that defined areas may pose a public health risk.
The TSQAP Manual of Operations details how the TSQAP implements the principles and guidelines of the ASQAP on a day to day basis. This document describes the administrative arrangements of TSQAP, the legislation under which the program operates, management and reviews of growing areas, surveillance and relaying policies, biotoxin management and the annual audit of the program. The TSQAP Manual of Operations is continuously updated to reflect the policies of TSQAP, and the responsibilities of TSQAP staff.
Want more information?
Please address enquiries about shellfish and public health matters in Tasmania to the Manager, TSQAP, Public and Environmental Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services, GPO BOX 125 Hobart 7001 or phone 1800 671 738.
About the Environmental Health Unit.