Looking across the Helford Estuary. The Falmouth Packet

UK - Shellfish Poisoning Fears over Cornwall Black Market Thefts

Suspected black market activity in stolen shellfish is raising fears that people may be poisoned.

A spate of thefts from valuable oyster beds, and from marine sources of mussels, scallops and clams, is alarming Port Health Authority experts who regulate one of Cornwall’s oldest traditional industries.

Port health officers believe the scale and frequency of reports and incidents indicates organised black market activity.

This may also have been driven by disruption to normal supplies caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

There is an open investigation into shellfish taken from the Helford on July 6, but there has been an upswing in intertidal beach and estuary ’poaching’ across the south west.

The illegal gathering of shellfish risks serious food poisoning for consumers and goes against conservation efforts to control stock sizes and quality.

Cornwall’s port health manager Tim Bage said: “From a food safety point of view, most people aren’t aware that most of our shellfish goes through a purification process to purge out unwanted bacteria which otherwise could cause very nasty food poisoning.

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