Health chiefs take Whitstable oysters off the menu

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A ban on taking Whitstable oysters from the Thames estuary was imposed yesterday afterthe world renowned shellfish tested positive for a toxic algae.

A ban on taking Whitstable oysters from the Thames estuary was imposed yesterday afterthe world renowned shellfish tested positive for a toxic algae.

The ban has been issued for 28 days but health officials said it would be extended if the algae, DSP, fails to clear naturally. DSP causes serious food poisoning within 12 hours.

It is the first time Whitstable has been affected. All of the Port of London area is already subject to the ban. It applies to oysters, mussels and clams but not winkles, whelks, crabs, lobsters, prawns or shrimps.

Oysters have become one of Whitstable's biggest earners in the past decade, and hundreds of residents are employed in the industry. The Whitstable Oyster Festival - held last weekend - is its biggest single tourist event, attracting thousands of visitors annually.

A spokesman for the Seasalter Shellfish Company in Whitstable, which is one of Britain's largest suppliers of shellfish, said: "We have received a three-page banning order and will not be taking from our beds probably for a month in the first instance."

A spokeswoman for Canterbury City Council, Ann Francis, said: "We must act in the interest of public safety by putting a ban on shellfish collection until the algae levels subside. Local businesses are aware of the problem and have been extremely co-operative."

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