Illegal shellfish rustling is becoming an ever-increasing problem all across the U.K. and fears are growing that these illicit crops could be the source of serious outbreaks of food poisoning. The legal shellfish trade is highly regulated, with molluscs being subjected to stringent testing procedures before they go to the market to ensure any levels of bacteria are within acceptable limits.
Shellfish ingest bacteria which then live on in their gut, and can be responsible for outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella and Norovirus. Now it is feared that unscrupulous traders are buying shellfish that have been collected illegally and that potentially dangerous products are entering the human food chain.
For those who own or run a food business, using illegal shellfish is simply too big a risk to take. Traceability is everything, and if a food poisoning outbreak should occur it is essential that business owners have the ability to prove the provenance of their products.
When four hundred and fifty customers complained of falling ill after eating at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant The Fat Duck, it was caused by the Norovirus, which was traced back to raw oysters. While there was never any suggestion that the origins of these oysters were dubious, any business found to have supplied illegally-sourced contaminated shellfish would pay a very heavy price.