Seafood CRC: protecting the safety and quality of Australian oysters with integrated predictive tools
University of Tasmania (UTAS)
Molluscan shellfish are high-valued seafood products that require careful supply chain management to guarantee both product safety and quality. Together, storage time and temperature exert the greatest influence on microbial food safety and must be controlled during oyster production, processing, transport and storage. The microbiological safety status of oysters is initially controlled by testing, monitoring and classifying growing waters as safe for harvest. As stated above, Vibrio species are a natural component of marine and estuarine environments, unlike faecal bacteria which are typically introduced into growing waters by land run-off. Consequently, it is prudent to assume that all live shellfish may potentially contain naturally-occurring Vibrio spp. Of these, V. parahaemolyticus is the most common species which can cause human infection if present in high numbers. This risk can be controlled by proper cold chain management, but may reach unacceptable levels with the loss of temperature control. This is particularly a concern for the oyster producer who has carefully managed the growth and characteristics of the oyster to yield the highest value, and who then looses control of value and the brand due to mismanagement down-stream. Even when human illness is an isolated event, the negative consequences can easily be spread across the entire industry. Thus, a proactive strategy is required to control and predict risk, with added benefits for also maintaining product quality. This can be achieved, in part, by producing a tool (proposed Refrigeration Index) that allows companies to monitor real-time conditions of the cold chain and thus the safety and quality of a highly-valued seafood product. The likely impact will include: 1) improved product safety, 2) an optimised cold chain, 3) higher product quality, 4) greater access to export markets and 5) a more cooperative regulatory environment.
1. To produce a validated and robust Vibrio parahaemolyticus model that is approved by Australian and international regulatory bodies to manage the live oyster cold chain, control the risk of Vibrio diseases and provide greater access to national and international markets.