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Peta, FDA Team up on Shellfish Toxicity Tests

30 May 2012

US - For decades, US fisheries have tested the algal toxin levels of shellfish caught for human consumption by processing a sample of the shellfish in a blender and injecting the resulting slurry into the abdomen of live mice.

Now, thanks to the confluence of government, private sector and PETA US efforts, US fisheries will have access to a new, more accurate test that will save thousands of mice from being used in experiments. The previous, and what PETA believes to be an inaccurate test, used six to eight mice to test each shellfish bed periodically to ensure that the shellfish were safe for human consumption, but the new test developed by a dedicated scientist from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses the tissue from only one deceased rat to make 1,000 accurate tests.

PETA US helped fund the licensing necessary to implement the new test nationwide and is now working to let all US fisheries know about this development so that they can begin replacing the live-mouse test as soon as possible. PETA US has also put money towards a grant that will further refine the new method so that slaughterhouse by-products can be used.

"PETA US was eager to help implement an effective toxicity test to save thousands of mice from a slow, excruciating death", says Alistair Currie, policy adviser at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation (PETA UK). "Following the recent positive developments in the UK and EU, we're confident that US fisheries will see the wisdom in immediately switching to this kinder, scientifically superior and far less expensive test."

The new test detects paralytic shellfish poisons, a group of toxins that can cause facial paralysis, hypotension, vomiting, tachycardia and fatal cardiovascular shock. These toxins may be found in mussels, softshell clams, oysters, lobsters, crabs, herring, salmon and many other species in US waters.

The news follows the recent announcement by the UK's Food Standards Agency that the use of mice for routine shellfish toxin testing in the UK has been completely replaced by a high-tech, animal-free method. PETA US and PETA UK worked together to lobby UK and EU authorities on this issue over a number of years. EU law was amended in 2010 to phase out routine use of the mouse test by 2015 across all EU member states.

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