Queen's scientists make shellfish safer to eat

Shellfish graphic The test will be able to detect dangerous shellfish toxins within half an hour

Scientists at Queen's University have developed a new technology that will make shellfish safer to eat.

The breakthough by the Institute for Agri-Food and Land Use ensures shellfish, like cockles and oysters, are free of toxins before they reach the public.

The current process for monitoring potentially dangerous toxins can take up to two days.

But the new test slashes that time to just 30 minutes.

It detects paralytic shellfish poisons by using a biosensor technology. The toxins paralyse anyone who consumes them and kill around 25% people who are poisoned.

Professor Chris Elliott, who led the project, said: "While the existence of these toxins has been known for some time, there have been major concerns about the effectiveness of tests used to detect them.

"There is also growing evidence that climate change is causing many more toxic episodes across the world, resulting in the closure of affected shellfish beds.

"The new test, developed at Queen's, is much quicker and more reliable than existing methods.

"It works by using unique 'detector proteins' to seek out minute amounts of toxins present in mussels, oysters, cockles and scallops."

The test was developed as part of a 10m euros BioCop research project led by Queen's and involving 32 international research partners and the European Commission.

The researchers at Queen's have signed a contratc with UK-based company Neogen Europe to commericalise the idea.

More Northern Ireland stories


Features & Analysis

  • Devi AsmadiredjaHermit queen

    The German woman who swapped home for a mountain cave

  • Gift, genericTaboo gifts

    Which presents can cause offence?

  • Women in shared roomCrowded house

    Five ways to survive sharing a bedroom with strangers

  • Part of a Thomas Greve picture of the liberation of BuchenwaldBearing witness

    How a young survivor's drawings helped bring the Holocaust to life

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Older ladyAge of happiness

    A Russian photographer documents inspirational seniors who are refusing to grow old


  • A computer generated model of a lift shaftClick Watch

    The future of elevator technology - lifts that can climb up to 1km in the air and even travel sideways

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.