Food safety

Shellfish harvesting

The London Port Health Authority is responsible for all port health functions on the Thames. This includes the monitoring and sampling of shellfish and water quality to safeguard food safety and ensure that any risk to health is minimised.

The London Port Health Authority will open, close and classify shellfish harvesting areas based on their monitoring and sampling results and issue notices where necessary to close specific sites. The shellfish harvesting areas, current notices and further information in regard to shellfish

It is tempting to forage live shellfish when you see an abundance of live oysters, clams, mussels and winkles on Southend Foreshore.

However, instead of foraging live shellfish, our environmental health officers want to encourage residents and visitors to purchase shellfish from reputable food businesses. This way you can be assured they are safe to eat and will be supporting our local community industry.

Live shellfish from Southend-on-Sea foreshore are collected by operators with registration documents and moved to Council approved depuration centres to go through a lengthy ‘cleaning’ process. This removes impurities and harmful bacteria before being sold to the public by legitimate food business operators.

If shellfish are harvested from unclassified or prohibited beds or a batch of live shellfish is not accompanied by a valid registration document, food authorities are empowered to seize them and seek an order for their destruction through the Magistrates’ Court. The shellfish gatherer will be liable to pay all reasonable expenses incurred by Southend-on-Sea City Council in the destruction and disposal of the seized shellfish.

Further charges can also be brought against the shellfish gatherer. Any organised shellfish harvesting activities in Southend-on-Sea City must comply with the food hygiene regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations is a criminal offence and offenders on conviction are liable to an unlimited fine and/ or 2 year imprisonment.

If you would like to report any suspicious shellfish harvesting activities including oyster shucking on the seafront, please contact us by submitting the online form and if the matter is ongoing please also call 01702 215000, ask for the food safety team and we will try to send an officer to assess the situation.

If you are a shellfish commercial harvester then you must have a suitably issued and complete registration document when you land the product at Southend. Officers will require them to be produced for inspection at the point of landing.

To obtain a registration document you will need to telephone or email Port Health at their Denton Office 01474 363033 or email the Port Health Denton Office.These document are required for both live bi-valve molluscs and gastropods (eg winkles).

Commercial collection of cockles is subject to a license, catch quotas and must be undertaken during the open season set by the Inlands Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA).

Contact Licences, Permissions & Trading Standards

Telephone: 01702 215005

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