New, more accurate test for paralytic shellfish poisons

PETA works with industry and government scientists to spare lives of tens of thousands of animals through new shellfish toxicity test

For decades, U.S. 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, causing them to suffer seizures, paralysis, and death by suffocation. Now, thanks to the confluence of government, private sector, and PETA efforts, U.S. fisheries will have access to a new, more accurate test for paralytic shellfish poisons that will save thousands of mice from a painful death.

The previous, inaccurate test used six to eight mice to test each shellfish bed periodically to ensure that the shellfish were safe for humans to consume, but the new test developed by a dedicated scientist from the Food and Drug Administration uses the tissue from one killed rat to make 1,000 accurate tests. PETA helped fund the licensing necessary to implement the new test nationwide and is now working to inform all U.S. fisheries of this development so that they can begin replacing the live-mouse test as soon as possible. PETA has also put money toward a grant that will further refine the new method so that slaughterhouse byproducts can be used.

"PETA was eager to help implement an effective toxicity test that will save tens of thousands of mice from a slow, excruciating death," says Jessica Sandler, director of PETA's Regulatory Testing Division. "We're confident that U.S. fisheries will see the wisdom in 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 off the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States.

Following a collaboration between PETA and PETA U.K., PETA's overseas affiliate, the E.U. has already replaced all live-mouse tests for shellfish toxicity. PETA and its affiliates have donated more than $1 million to the development of non-animal test methods.

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