Shellfish Sanitation Laboratory

The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is home to the only #WHO conforming lab for shellfish testing in the state of Mississippi.

In 1985 the state health department lab on the Gulf Coast was closed due to budget cuts and samples began being sent to Jackson for testing. This proved to be problematic due to time and temperature issues. At that time GCRL became compliant and started performing this testing.

GCRL Shellfish Sanitation LaboratorySince that time the GCRL Microbiology Laboratory, lead by Dawn Rebarchik, has provided this vital service to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR).

Under guidelines set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, each state that harvests live shellfish must continually monitor the growing waters for fecal coliform levels.

The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) was formed in 1982 to foster and promote shellfish sanitation through the cooperation of state and federal control agencies, the shellfish industry, and the academic community. The ISSC performs evaluations on the labs that perform shellfish testing across the country to maintain continuity, consistency, quality control and good lab practices. Mandatory lab evaluations performed every #couple of years, and each lab is subject to evaluation at any time. Shellfish testing must be performed in an exacting manner following every guideline to the letter; the analyses are performed for a regulatory purpose not for research purposes.

Shellfish testing is a vital component of the #WHAT? WHO?Mississippi Shellfish Program to protect public health and ensure adherence to federal regulations. Without an ISSC-compliant lab performing these tests, shellfish cannot be sold commercially or shipped across state lines.

Seawater and oyster meat samples are collected by MDMR personnel and delivered to GCRL for analysis. GCRL Microbiology Laboratory personnel analyze the samples for fecal coliforms and total aerobic bacterial count. Results are transmitted to MDMR immediately upon completion. All data are reported to MDMR for management decisions regarding the oyster harvest. GCRL provides analytical support only; decisions on opening or closing of harvest areas are made by MDMR.Mississippi Shellfish Sanitation Program, from the GCRL Microbiology Laboratory

During 2013, the GCRL Microbiology Laboratory hopes to become a post-harvest processing (PHP) lab as well. #WHO CERTIFIES? This will entail testing oysters after they have been treated to reduce instances of Vibrio vulnificus.  Most other coastal states including Louisiana, Alabama and Texas already have PHP testing labs, but no PHP testing laboratory currently exists in Mississippi. #MS product tested where now?

The Microbiology Laboratory also performs beach monitoring and ambient monitoring #OF WHAT? in accordance with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Similar federal guidelines are set forth by these agencies and the GCRL laboratory must comply to qualify to perform this type of work.