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June 1, 2011

HSI Canada Applauds CFIA Move to Replace Cruel, Scientifically-Flawed Animal Test for Shellfish Toxins

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Mice and other animals should not be subjected to cruel tests. James Brey/istock

MONTREAL—Humane Society International/Canada has written to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to applaud its recent adoption of an innovative, non-animal test for the detection of poisonous contaminants in shellfish in place of live animal testing. In its June 1 letter [PDF] to CFIA President Carole Swan, HSI Canada thanked the agency for its leadership on this important public health and animal welfare issue and asked for its commitment to end all animal testing of shellfish in line with the policy of a growing number of European countries. 

“Animals used in shellfish testing can die one of the most agonizing deaths imaginable, many suffocating as the toxins starve their lungs of oxygen,” said Troy Seidle, HSI director of research and toxicology. “Such cruelty is hardly the cutting-edge of safety testing, nor is it a reliable way to protect consumers. Many countries are quite sensibly switching to superior, animal-free test methods for all shellfish toxin testing, and HSI looks to Canada to follow their example.”

Testing seafood samples for potentially harmful toxins is necessary to protect human health. However, the standard mouse test—which involves injecting a shellfish extract into animals’ abdomens and timing how long it takes for them to die—has been widely criticized by health authorities from around the globe. For example, the World Health Organization has cited “severe technical and ethical limitations” in regard to the mouse test, and the European Food Safety Authority has described it as “inappropriate with inherent uncertainty, variability and poor specificity.”

Non-animal alternatives to the mouse test include a variety of scientifically validated physico-chemical tools, including the CFIA-pioneered“LC PCOX” (liquid chromatographic post-column oxidation) method, which allows individual toxic compounds to be identified and measured.

Humane Society International has recently launched a global campaign calling on consumers to pledge not to purchase or consume shellfish until countries switch to ethical and more effective non-animal methods of safety testing.


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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than ten million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.