The UK government is in talks with the European Commission over an indefinite ban on the export of certain types of live shellfish to the European Union.
As part of the post-Brexit trading rules, UK fishermen have been banned from selling live bivalve molluscs – mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops – to EU member states. Only ready-to-eat shellfish can now be exported.
Under rules which came into force on 1 January, the molluscs must be treated in UK purification plants before being shipped to the EU. Previously the purification process could take place in the destination country.
The UK fishing industry said it the new rules will have a marked impact as it does not have enough purification tanks ready and the process can slow exports, making them less viable.
In a statement sent to just-food, the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Live bivalve molluscs such as oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops can continue to be exported to the EU if they’re harvested from Class A waters or cleaned, or have cleared end product testing in the UK.
"We will continue to raise the issue of live bivalve molluscs not ready for human consumption with the EU, to ensure the trade can continue securely."
According to UK broadcaster the BBC, the UK government previously said it thought the restrictions on exports of bivalve molluscs would end on 21 April but the Commission wrote to leading UK companies on 13 and 19 January to tell them the current arrangement would be in place indefinitely.
just-food asked the Commission for a response to this story. An EC spokesperson said: "Import into the EU, from third countries, of live bivalve molluscs which are intended for placement on the EU area market (and also Northern Ireland), for human consumption, is allowed only if they originate from classified areas and meet all the sanitary requirements for molluscs destined for immediate human consumption."
The spokesperson added: "The Commission can confirm that it has informed the British shellfish industry that the above mentioned requirements are not temporary and are now applicable to all shellfish imported from the UK."