a1 Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Fisheries Laboratory, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex
Incidents of non-specific illness associated with the consumption of oysters have highlighted the lack of published information on the bacteriology of shellfish suitable for consumption. Investigations showed that the majority of molluscan shellfish entering English markets conform to the accepted standard of less than 5 Escherichia coli/ml. tissue. The numbers of E. coli were related to the sanitary quality of the growing area but no relation could be established between numbers of E. coli and coliforms, faecal streptococci or Clostridium welchii. The numbers of non-specific bacteria varied considerably but shellfish from sources associated with non-specific illness yielded relatively high counts at 37° C. The results showed that there was no justification for a standard based on total plate counts, which often exceeded 106/g. Such a standard would have to be coupled with spoilage or the incidence of non-specific illness. The relation between the numbers of non-specific bacteria growing at 20 and 37° C. appears to be a useful measure for assessing the likelihood that raw shellfish are a public health risk.
(Received January 02 1975)