Risk to consumers from fungal toxins in shellfish should be monitored

September 5, 2013

To protect consumers, screening shellfish for fungal toxins is important, say scientists.

Research, published today (06 September) in the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) journal, Letters in Applied Microbiology, shows that in an area with contamination by strains of Penicillium fungus, bivalve molluscs (clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, etc.) will contain toxins at much higher levels that are found in the surrounding environment.

Professor Yves François Pouchus, from the University of Nantes, France, led the research, he said "A high level of toxins in the shellfish tells us that we have to be careful not to underestimate the impact of certain Penicillium strains in the water where shellfish are harvested for ."

Professor Pouchus' team have found that the fungi actually produce more toxin when growing inside or in a medium containing mussel extract.

Although toxins from Penicillium don't cause acute food poisoning, they can have a negative impact on cells and DNA. In theory, these could cause health issues in the long term, such as cancer.

Pouchus concluded "At this point, we think it would be pertinent to begin screening edible shellfish for mycotoxins in order to protect consumers."

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