First Report on the Occurrence of Tetrodotoxins in Bivalve Mollusks in The Netherlands

Gerssen, Arjen; Bovee, Toine; Klijnstra, Mirjam; Poelman, Marnix; Portier, Liza; Hoogenboom, Ron


Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is traditionally associated with seafood from tropical regions, but recently TTX was detected in bivalve mollusks in more temperate European waters. In The Netherlands it was therefore decided to monitor TTX in shellfish harvested from Dutch production areas. All shellfish production areas were monitored in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Samples were analyzed using liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). In total 1063 samples were investigated, and the highest concentrations were observed in 2016, i.e., 253 g TTX/kg in oysters and 101 g TTX/kg in mussels. No TTX analogues, with the exception of 4-epi-TTX in one single sample, were found and contaminated samples also showed positive results in the neuro-2a bioassay. The occurrence of TTX seems to be consistent over the last three years with the highest concentrations observed annually in late June. The causative organism and the reasons why specific Dutch production areas are affected while others are not, are still unclear. Initially in The Netherlands an action limit of 20 g TTX/kg was used to ensure the safety of consumers (2016), but recently
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established an acute reference dose, and based on a high portion size of consuming 400 g mussels, this dose was translated into a safe concentration of 44 g TTX per kg for shellfish. This concentration is now used as an action limit and TTX is formally included in the Dutch shellfish monitoring program.