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Food safety and hygiene How we monitor shellfish beds

We help classify and monitor shellfish beds and the movement of shellfish.

Classification of shellfish

Before shellfish can be gathered commercially and placed on the market for human consumption, each shellfish bed must be ‘classified’, dependent upon the health status of the shellfish.

We regularly gather samples of live bivalve molluscs from naturally occurring and farmed estuarine and marine stocks to examine them for their health status. These include

Bed classification types

See the table below for bed classification types.

Bed Classification E. coli presence / 100G Flesh Effect upon the bed
A ≤ 230 E. coli / 100g Molluscs can be harvested for direct human consumption
B 90% of samples must be: ≤ 4600 E. coli / 100g
All samples must be less than: 46000 E. coli / 100g
Molluscs can be sold for human consumption:
  • after purification in an approved plant, or
  • after re-laying in an approved Class A re-laying area, or
  • after an EC-approved heat treatment process.
C ≤ 46000 E. coli / 100g Molluscs can be sold for human consumption only after re-laying for at least two months in an approved re-laying area followed, where necessary, by treatment in a purification centre, or after an EC-approved heat treatment process.

How we monitor shellfish and shellfish beds

We conduct routine monitoring to reduce the potential for unsafe shellfish being placed on the market.

Along with partners such as North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA), Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), local authorities and the Police, we also ensure that shellfish beds are protected and managed effectively to safeguard public health, all year round. 

We regularly provide advice and guidance to the shellfish industry to ensure that merchants and gatherers are informed of the food law requirements.

Do I need to register as a food business operator?

Primary producers of live bivalve molluscs who do not carry out any processing but only harvest product for onward sale, must register with the local authority where the business is based, unless they are directly supplying small quantities of live bivalve molluscs under a Local Market Exemption.

For live bivalve molluscs, a small amount is a total amount of not more than 25 tonnes of fishery products in a calendar year. This annual total amount can be made up of any species, but must not exceed the maximum amount below for the following species:

While Regulation EC 853/2004 does not apply to small quantities, it is still the responsibility of the harvester to ensure that the live bivalve molluscs they are placing on the market meet the end product standards set down for placing on the market. Any amount of the catch must have originated from an ‘A’ class area which means it can be placed on market with no further treatment required.

Do I need a registration document?

To ensure traceability of the product a completed, a registration document must accompany each batch of live bivalve molluscs during transportation from the production area to the dispatch or purification centre.

Registration documents will be issued by us for beds within our jurisdiction and will only be issued to valid NWIFCA permit holders.

A registration document must accompany each batch of shellfish and be completed by the gatherer or the food business operator. The original copy must stay with consignment and copy retained by the gatherer or the food business operator, gatherers details must be included, although they can appoint an Agent.

How do I obtain a GLA licence?

The GLA is responsible for the issuing of licences and therefore you should contact them directly for licensing and general queries by telephone - 0845 602 5020 or 0044 845 602 5020 (outside the UK). Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.

How do I obtain a NWIFCA permit?

Contact the NWIFCA Carnforth Office on 01524 727970, email or go to Please do not contact us until you have a valid NWIFCA permit.

Closure notices and why we issue them

We issue closure notices when we are satisfied that the consumption of species taken from the area is likely to cause a risk to public health. For example, the classified mollusc production area was subject to sudden or accidental pollution.

The use of a closure notice may also be needed where there is a local problem with environmental pollution caused by microbiological or chemical contamination, or the presence of marine biotoxins is above the regulatory limits, or there is evidence of toxin producing plankton.

We may also need to seek the opinion of experts such as the consultant in communicable disease control and consultant microbiologist at Public Health England.

Current classified areas

Production area: Harrison Drive East
Site name: B058R
Status: C

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