Comment: Implementing Scientifically-robust and Humane Shellfish Toxicity Testing: We’re Still Waiting
The response to a Parliamentary Question put to the then-Home Office Minister on 8 March 2006, was that “All protocols for the detection of toxins in shellfish intended for human consumption were assigned a substantial severity limit”, and that “A total of 6,468 animals were used in the relevant procedures [for the testing of shellfish toxins in the UK] during 2004”. The official European Union (EU) method for shellfish toxin testing is the Mouse Bioassay (MBA). The MBA is the primary method, although the Rat Bioassay (RBA) is permitted for some toxins. Six years later, following the completion of ten reports from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stating that current reliance on the MBA is scientifically inappropriate, the regulatory climate for testing is almost unchanged, despite the availability of alternatives. The reliance on such a scientifically quest onable method, and the welfare concerns for the animals used, highlight the extent of the clash between policy and science. The ongoing struggle to persuade the European Commission to formally adopt non-animal testing methods for all of the relevant toxins has been fruitless, and evidence remains that thousands of mice are used every year in lethal tests that could be replaced. There is an absolute requirement for advanced scientific methods to replace questionable methods which rely on outdated, inaccurate animal tests; in this case, marine biotoxin testing has surely been waiting in line for far too long.