Tonnes of potentially-contaminated shellfish are being sold into the food chain, according to an investigation by The Ecologist and The Independent
The illegal harvesting of cockles, clams and oysters for sale to restaurants and wholesalers could result in outbreaks of serious food poisoning, as they do not go through the same strict safety checks as legitimately-caught molluscs.
This also causes problems for the food safety agencies, as all seafood requires accompanying documentation to ensure traceability. It is nearly impossible to verify the source of illegal shellfish without this.
The legitimate seafood industry is worth £250 million, and is a major part of Britain's food economy. Illegal traders hit known areas at night, before selling on the molluscs to restaurants, wholesalers and exporters.
Linden Jack, head of food hygiene policy at the agency, said, “Shellfish bought from illegal sources will not have been subjected to the checks which ensure it is fit for human consumption. Shellfish from approved beds are monitored to ensure they meet standards for microbiological contamination. Consumers will therefore have no guarantee that illegally-harvested shellfish is free from such contamination and are risking their health if they eat it.”