Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 311820
Funded under: FP7-KBBE
Country: Portugal

Periodic Report Summary 2 - ECSAFESEAFOOD (Priority environmental contaminants in seafood: safety assessment, impact and public perception)

Project Context and Objectives:
Although seafood is recognized as a high quality, healthy and safe food, some can accumulate environmental contaminants with potential impact on human health. Seafood is currently controlled by efficient monitoring programs in Europe for certain environmental contaminants (e.g. Pb, Hg, Cd, toxins) that provide crucial information for management and risk assessment purposes. However, little information is available for contaminants without maximum limits set by European authorities, i.e. contaminants of emerging concern, such as toxins from harmful algal blooms, marine litter and associated chemicals, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceutical and personal care products, metal species and brominated flame retardants. Therefore, in order to increase safety of seafood for European consumers and reduce human health risks, ECsafeSEAFOOD aims to assess safety issues mainly related to non-regulated contaminants of emerging concern present in seafood as a result of environmental contamination and evaluate their impact on public health, contributing to the improvement of seafood risk management and risk communication. The project is relevant for the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive and especially for the descriptor n°9 on contaminants in fish and seafood, which will be useful to determine the Good Environmental Status of EU waters. In this way, ECsafeSEAFOOD proposes a comprehensive and integrated set of objectives to fulfill the main objective:
• Monitor the presence of environmental contaminants of emerging concern in the environment and in seafood and prioritize those contaminants that are real hazards and present at levels relevant for human health (WP1 and WP2).
• Study the effect of processing / cooking on the behaviour of environmental contaminants of emerging concern in seafood (WP2).
• Optimize methods for the detection and quantification of emerging toxins from harmful algal blooms (WP2).
• Investigate what information is needed and how it should be disseminated, in coordination with risk managers, to the general public and to vulnerable groups of consumers in order to reduce public health risks from seafood consumption, and test the possible impact of dissemination on public opinion (WP3).
• Perform risk assessments in order to measure the potential impact of seafood contaminants on public health using in-depth probabilistic exposure tools (WP3).
• Develop mitigation tools to be implemented by risk managers, like two online tools for different stakeholders (i.e. one simpler tool for consumers and another with more detailed information for other stakeholders like doctors, nutritionists, researchers, policy makers, food safety authorities) and guidelines, as well test innovative technologies to decrease contaminant levels in seafood, such as phycoremediation and industrial processing (WP3).
• Confirm/refine the European Maximum Reference Levels (MRLs) in seafood for contaminants of emerging concern that are real hazards and for which no legislation exists or information is still insufficient (WP3).
• Develop, validate and provide new tools to make the assessment of the presence of environmental contaminants in seafood products easier and faster (WP4).
• Develop further understanding of the public health impacts of these chemical hazards, through the toxicological characterization of the selected seafood contaminants in realistic conditions, i.e. assessing synergistic and antagonistic effects between contaminants, and analyzing real seafood product samples before and after undergoing processing and culinary treatment (WP5).
• Quantify the transfer of relevant environmental contaminants of emerging concern between the environment and seafood, taking into account the effect of climate change (WP6).
• Effectively inform, communicate and disseminate the project outputs to key stakeholders
(e.g. policy makers and food producers) and consumers, as well as the general safety of seafood, in order to reduce the public health risks (WP7).

Project Results:
As part of WP1, the online database platform created to gather relevant literature dealing with contaminants of emerging concern in seafood was regularly updated (including with results obtained from hot spot and commercial samples and with climate change effects in seafood contamination; D1.4 and D1.5) and its access was opened to external stakeholders.
Within WP2, the monitoring of commercial samples has been successfully analysed (D2.4). Among these analyses, plastic particles were determined in shellfish and fish samples (D2.3). The occurrence of biotoxins in commercial samples from consumer markets was monitored, new methods of analysis were developed (D2.6), new metabolites were identified and reference material was produced (D2.5). The effect of culinary processing in contaminant levels of seafood was also completed (D2.7).
Within WP3: (1) Results of the consumer survey performed in 5 countries resulted in 2 publications; (2) The information experiment was performed in 2 countries and results are provided in D3.2; (3) The risk assessment of some selected contaminants present in seafood was performed, and consequently, D3.4. is under development and will be finalized by M42; (4) A pilot on-line consumer tool was developed and is being optimized, integrating the input from different experts and stakeholders; (5) A list of existing guidelines and possible communication channels were identified; (6) Phycoremediation trials were performed and results are being finalized (D3.3 will be released by M40); (7) Raw and processed seafood species were analysed for selected contaminants and results will be compiled in D3.6 (M44).
Concerning WP4, new recognition elements were designed, developed and characterized in WP4 (D4.2-4.5). After the analysis of their characteristics, several antibodies, aptamers and MIPs were selected and are being used as part of new detection systems. In this sense, new immunoassays (ELISA, SPR and electrochemical sensors) were optimized for the detection of marine biotoxins and antibiotics and are being applied to seafood samples. The performance of a multiplate microbiological method for the determination of antibiotics was also tested with seafood samples, though results were inconclusive (D4.6).
In the framework of WP5, contaminants were selected for toxicity and bioavailability studies based on WP1-3 output. For bioaccessibility studies, seafood samples with sufficiently high levels of contaminants were processed and results will be disclosed at M40. Bioavailability and toxicity studies with cell lines started with heavy metals and biotoxins. Acute and sub-acute effects of heavy metals, PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, HBCD, TBBPA were determined in zebrafish embryos.
Within WP6, trials to assess the transfer of toxins to brown crab were finalized, as well as trials to investigate the transfer of chemical contaminants and microplastics to salmon (cold water fish). Trials with warm water fish started at M36 due to the unavailability of seabream that was replaced by seabass. Trials simulating climate change with clams were completed for contaminants added through the feed. However, several contaminants were not found in the contaminated feed. Therefore, new climate change trials were setup with contaminants added through water that will start at M37. Consequently, D6.3 will be delivered at M42.
In WP7, effective communication and dissemination was carried out through the project website, Twitter page, scientific articles, partners interviews, a project feature at Euronews, presentations at external events and stakeholder consultations (two workshops were organized for consumers, seafood industrials and policy makers, as well as two online surveys). Knowledge management activities included the completion of detailed Knowledge Output Templates, analysis of exploitable outputs and initiation of transfer plans. 19 scientific papers were published, 14 of which in a special project issue of the Environmental Research journal.

Potential Impact:
The main expected final results of ECsafeSEAFOOD project are:
• A large set of contaminant data, including microplastics and natural biotoxins, in a wide range of seafood products, obtained from all European and non-European countries will be gathered in a useful public database (WP1-2)
• Improved methods for microplastic determination and for (emerging) biotoxins (WP2)
• Understanding the effect of origin, season and cooking on seafood contaminant levels (WP2)
• Advanced insights into perceptions and concern of the consumer about seafood (safety), as well as in the impact of information messages (including information about health risks and health benefits of seafood, sustainability aspect of seafood, advice about optimal seafood consumption frequency and recommendations to buy seafood in a sustainable way) to general public (WP3)
• Risk assessment of consumers’ exposure to relevant contaminants of emerging concern in seafood integrating datasets of contaminants levels (database), seafood-consumption-frequency and contaminants toxicity (WP3).
• Insights into the utilization of macroalgae as a mitigation tool to reduce contaminant levels in seafood, evaluate the interest and restrictions of this tool (WP3).
• Identification of the most appropriate strategies to reduce the levels of contaminants during seafood industrial processing, and that can be used by consumers (WP3).
• New sensitive and rapid detection systems for the analysis of environmental contaminants of emerging concern that will help to control the safety of seafood and create a potential business area for SMEs fabricating sensors (WP4).
• Identification of acute and sub-acute effects of emerging contaminants through bioaccessibility and bioavailability in vitro assessment of contaminants in raw and processed seafood (WP5).
• Toxicity and genotoxicity of emerging contaminants in experiments with human cell lines and zebrafish (WP5).
• Better understanding of toxicokinetics, accumulation, elimination and carryover of contaminants from the feed to fish, crabs and bivalves, taking into account the impact of microplastic particles and climate change (WP6).
• Dissemination of ECsafeSEAFOOD efforts to increase consumers’ awareness of safe and high quality seafood, and to reduce public health risks; the innovative knowledge transfer process will ensure the deliver of project outputs to the appropriate end-users, ensuring safe seafood and enhancing European competitiveness and innovation of food-producing SMEs (WP7).
ECsafeSEAFOOD final results will have tangible societal and economical impacts:
• Monitoring non-regulated contaminants of emerging concern and the improved quantification methods will enable to assess the levels in seafood and to ensure transparent messages to consumers.
• Probabilistic exposure assessment and risk characterization of relevant contaminants in seafood will not only help (health) policy makers to identify contaminants that accumulate in seafood at dangerous levels, but will also allow regulatory authorities to implement more realistic risk characterization of contaminant exposure to consumers.
• Effective dissemination and communication strategies will lead to improved consumer education.
• Increase the economic revenue of SMEs in the seafood sector (farmers, processors and fisherman) with the new mitigation tools being developed.
• The new detection tools to be implemented in control and monitoring plans of food producers and competent authorities will improve the analytical performance, reduce costs, promote food safety, strength the confidence of consumers in seafood products, and open a potential business area for European SMEs devoted to the fabrication of sensors, thus increasing their competitiveness.
• Increasing consumer awareness of safe and high quality seafood, and the confidence in its consumption. The results will have a positive economic effect as a result of the promotion of seafood consumption throughout Europe in a conscientious way.

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