Contaminated cockles trigger poison seafood alert –

Contaminated cockles trigger poison seafood alert Published:  25 August, 2010

AN alert has gone out to seafood suppliers after more than 10 tons of cockles, thought to be unfit for human consumption, were taken illegally from the seabed on the Lancashire Coast.

The fear is that the cockles may be contaminated and therefore dangerous to eat. It is not unusual for people to ‘poach’ shellfish on this part of the coast . The Food Standards Agency say they have received reports that around 50 people arrived in a number of vehicles with trailers and began raking up the cockles from the shore at Leasowe in the Wirral. The shellfish are thought to have a retail value of around £15,000. and the FSA said they could have been sent to the East Coast for processing.

Contaminated shellfish – and especially cockles – can cause serious food poisoning which could prove fatal for elderly people in particular. The FSA said cockles collected from such beds can pose a “serious risk” to human health. Officers attended the scene and spoke to a few fishermen, who all claimed to have permits to rake for cockles.Subsequent inquiries uncovered doubts about the legality of the licences and officers started an investigation, alerting the Environment Agency and FSA.

It is also an offence to fish for cockles and mussels, particularly at night,  without a valid licence and Merseyside Police have launched an investigation. The area where the cockles were harvested is part of the inner Liverpool Bay which, although has seen its water quality improve in recent years, has had pollution issues in the past. However, the immediate concern is over health safety and any fish processor or merchant offered cheap cockles is asked to contact the Food Standards Agency immediately.