Details of the classification of Scotland’s shellfish harvesting areas, which aims to ensure that only shellfish safe for human consumption are placed on the market, have been issued today by the Food Standards Agency Scotland. Shellfish cannot be marketed from unclassified waters.

The classification of shellfish harvesting areas is dependent on the degree of bacterial contamination in mollusc flesh.

Each year, following rigorous sampling and testing, areas are classified according to the following categories:

Category A

Shellfish may go direct for human consumption

Category B

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Shellfish must be appropriately treated to ensure they meet Category A standards before being marketed

Category C

Shellfish must be re-laid for at least two months in cleaner waters and then only marketed when they meet category A or B requirements

Of the 148 areas classified this year, 21 areas have moved up a category.

As part of its ongoing review of current policy, the Food Standards Agency Scotland is currently investigating ways of improving the existing classification system. Under the system as it presently operates, classification reviews have taken place annually. A more proactive approach is now being considered under which classifications would be reviewed more frequently allowing changes in contamination levels to be translated into changes in classifications much more quickly. This will provide for both a more meaningful method of protecting public health as well as improving businesses’ ability to be able to plan for the future.


  1. EC shellfish Directive 91/492/EEC lays down the health conditions for the production and the placing on the market of live bivalve molluscs (such as oysters, mussels, scallops and razor fish). Under the Directive, the Food Standards Agency must establish the location and fix the boundaries of production areas of shellfish harvesting. The Agency must also list and classify these production areas according to the degree of contamination by faecal indicator bacteria present in samples of mollusc flesh.

  2. Under the provisions of the Food Standards Act 1999, the Food Standards Agency has taken over responsibility for issuing classifications to shellfish harvesting sites from the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SERAD). In conjunction with this change of responsibilities the process of collecting samples, reporting results and issuing classifications is currently undergoing review.

  3. For the purpose of classification, mollusc samples from production areas are collected by the site owners and Environmental Health Officers, with the assistance of others in the industry, and presently analysed at the Fisheries Research Services, Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. The classification is based on samples received up to December 2000. Sampling and testing will continue in 2001 with the classification being subject to review and amendment if further data shows this to be necessary.

  4. A full copy of the classification results will shortly be available on our website or by contacting the number below.

For further information contact Louise Bisset on 01224 285127.