Monitoring phytoplankton and marine biotoxins in production waters of the Netherlands: results after one decade

H J van der Fels-Klerx, P Adamse, P W Goedhart, M Poelman, I E Pol-Hofstad, H van Egmond, A Gerssen
Food Additives & Contaminants. Part A, Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure & Risk Assessment 2012, 29 (10): 1616-29
Shellfish products may be contaminated with marine biotoxins which, after consumption, may lead to human illness. The Netherlands has a regular monitoring programme for marine biotoxins and the possible toxic phytoplankton in shellfish production waters. The aim of the current study was to evaluate the presence of potential toxic phytoplankton species and marine biotoxins in Dutch production waters over the last decade, and to analyse the relationship between toxin levels and abundance of possible causative phytoplankton species. The results of the monitoring programme of the period 1999-2009 were used. The presence of Alexandrium spp. were negligible, but Pseudo-nitzschia spp. and phytoplankton causing diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP toxin-producing phytoplankton) were present in nearly all three main production areas and years. The main DSP toxin-producing species was Dinophysis acuminata followed by D. rotundata and Prorocentrum lima. Toxins causing paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) were present in only a few individual shellfish samples, all at low levels. At the end of 2002, an episode of DSP toxicity was recorded, based on the rat bioassay results. Of the samples that were chemically analysed for DSP toxins in 2007 and 2008, about half of the samples in 2007 contained these toxins, although levels were low and no positive results were obtained using the rat bioassay. There was a slight positive correlation between concentrations of DSP toxin-producing phytoplankton and levels of DSP toxins in 2007. Increased DSP toxin levels were found up to 5 weeks after the peak in DSP toxin-producing phytoplankton. This positive, but weak, relationship needs to be confirmed in future research using more samples and chemical methods to quantify the presence of DSP toxins. If this relationship is further substantiated and quantified, it could be used within the current monitoring programme in the Netherlands to predict the risk areas regarding DSP toxicity in shellfish.

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