Managing the risks of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in bivalve shellfish

April 25, 2014

As water temperatures rise during spring and summer, so do risks to shellfish safety. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is reminding all shellfish processing establishments and importers to effectively control Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) in bivalve shellfish destined for raw consumption through a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan and/or import controls as applicable.

Vp is a bacterium that can cause gastrointestinal illness in humans. It naturally inhabits coastal waters throughout the world and can be found in higher concentrations during warmer months. The Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) monitors for Vp and other pathogens and classifies shellfish growing areas based on risk. Control measures must be implemented regardless of the CSSP classification.

Control Measures for Processing Establishments

Shellfish processing establishments must develop and implement appropriate validated control measures to ensure that shellfish meet the requirements of the CFIA's Bacteriological Guidelines for Fish and Fish Products. This includes validating the effectiveness of time/temperature controls and any other Vp control measures. Information on the validation of food safety control measures can be found on the WHO-FAO CODEX website (reference CAC/GL 69-2008) and in Appendix K of the CFIA Quality Management Program Reference Standard and Compliance Guidelines.

Control Measures for Importers

Importers must ensure that the products they import meet all the Canadian regulatory requirements and verify that their suppliers have Vp controls for live bivalve shellfish. Quality Management Program Import (QMPI) licence holders must ensure that their QMPI plan is up to date and addresses Vp in live bivalve shellfish. QMPI importers must also plan for routine product sampling and testing by an accredited laboratory.

As part of its food safety activities, the CFIA will be assessing controls for Vp in live bivalve shellfish at federally registered shellfish processing establishments and with importers. This may include sampling and testing of products.

The requirements noted above apply to all shellfish processing establishments and importers (supersede the annual Industry Notice "B.C. Oyster Vp Control Requirements") and, as previously communicated, the CFIA has ceased conducting Vp analysis on oysters from environmental indicator stations for British Columbia.

Any questions or comments regarding this notice, please contact your local CFIA office.

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