Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 15th July 2008.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

(1) who has powers to close shellfish waters to fishing on grounds of pollution or toxicity levels;

(2) what steps his Department takes to prevent shellfish from (a) British and (b) other waters being marketed when affected by radioactivity or other pollution.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

I have been asked to reply.

Food business operators are responsible for placing safe food on the market.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the competent authority for food safety, and is responsible for designating and classifying shellfish beds and ensuring that these areas are monitored for microbiological contamination and the presence of marine biotoxins in accordance with the relevant food safety legislation. In England and Wales this monitoring is undertaken by local enforcement authorities. Delegated powers are conferred on local enforcement authorities to close shellfish beds when monitoring results exceed specified legal limits.

The FSA also carries out a comprehensive monitoring programme around United Kingdom nuclear sites and further afield to ensure the safety of seafood from radioactive pollution. For shellfish from other waters, the port health authorities have the powers to sample shellfish (and other foods) for radioactive pollution and prohibit their placing on the market in the UK, if appropriate.

Subject to ministerial approval, the FSA may also issue Emergency Closure Orders under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1995 to close shellfish beds due to toxicity or pollution levels.

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