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European Researchers Develop New Sensors to Detect Toxins and Pharmaceutical Agents in Seafood


The European research project ECsafeSEAFOOD is currently developing innovative sensors to detect harmful toxins and pharmaceutical agents that can accumulate in seafood. ECsafeSEAFOOD is an EU-funded project that aims to assess and evaluate food safety issues related to contaminants of emerging concern present in seafood as a result of environmental contamination. These contaminants are substances that are toxic, persistent and liable to bio-accumulate; and other substances which give rise to an equivalent level of concern.

The project’s development of fast screening methods for targeted contaminants is almost concluded and sensors are already being developed for detecting contaminants such as chloramphenicol (an antibiotic useful for the treatment of a number of bacterial infections), azaspiracids (a group of marine algal toxins), tetrodotoxin (a potent neurotoxin) and sulphonamides (used in antibiotics and diuretics).

ECsafeSEAFOOD is also assessing the transfer of contaminants from the environment into seafood. Partners are quantifying contaminants in commercial species and assessing the effect of cooking procedures on the contaminants. Assessments have begun on the potential for contaminant substances to interact with (and be absorbed by) an organism as well as the degree to which the contaminants become available to the target tissue after ingestion.

ECsafeSEAFOOD July 2015 Press release photo 1The project partners are developing content for an online tool for stakeholders that will balance the risks and benefits associated with seafood consumption, taking exposure to contaminants into consideration. The project will also produce seafood safety guidelines to help consumers to reduce or eliminate the risk of contaminated seafood.

“Close links with the Food Safety Authorities at national and European levels have already been established in order to ensure that these important entities are immediately informed about the outputs of the project,” explained Dr Antonio Marques, ECsafeSEAFOOD project coordinator.

Dr Marques was speaking at the project’s sixth partner meeting, held in Ghent, Belgium, from 23-24 June 2015. The meeting was attended by members of the ECsafeSEAFOOD consortium, comprising 17 partner organisations from nine countries.

“This meeting was extremely fruitful. All partners are deeply involved and active in all ongoing aspects of the project. The advances were significant, particularly given that wider accessibility to the contaminants database has now been made available to external entities upon request,” said Dr Marques.

The ECsafeSEAFOOD contaminants database collates all related literature on contaminants of emerging concern in seafood species and includes the project results. It focuses on unregulated contaminants that give rise to concern from an environmental and public health point of view (see notes for editors for more information on the database).

For press queries, please contact the project’s communications officer:
Tanja Calis, AquaTT (email: Tel: +353 1 644 9008).

ECsafeSEAFOOD Contaminants Database

The contaminants in question include brominated flame retardants, endocrine disruptors, toxic element species, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, perfluorinated compounds, microplastics and marine biotoxins, amongst others. This unique tool is useful for improving contaminant diagnostics and seafood risk assessment for food safety authorities and food diagnostic firms, as well as the seafood and aquaculture industries. It can also be used by policy makers to help inform policy and advisory guidelines and by funding authorities to highlight the deficits in seafood contaminant research.

To request access to the contaminants database, please email introducing yourself and explaining the reasons why you want access.


ECsafeSEAFOOD July 2015 Press release photo 2ECsafeSEAFOOD Stakeholder Workshop

The first ECsafeSEAFOOD stakeholder workshop was held as part of the seventh International Festival of Good, Clean & Fair Fish, at the Slow Fish 2015 event from 14-17 May 2015 in Genoa, Italy. This event gave ECsafeSEAFOOD partners the opportunity to meet with relevant stakeholders in the field of environment, fisheries, as well as consumers and academics. The consultation was the first step towards determining the optimal strategies for involving producers/processors in the project, and effectively communicating the project outputs in order to reduce public health risks from seafood consumption.


ECsafeSEAFOOD recently featured on the Euronews television series Futuris. To view the episode online, see:


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