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Southend Council will spy on illegal oyster pickers
6:50am Tuesday 8th October 2013 in News
OFFICERS are set to spy on suspected illegal oyster pickers in Southend in a year-long crackdown to protect people from food poisoning.
Southend Council officers are set to follow people suspected of supplying restaurants with untreated oysters taken from Southend all the way to London in a bid to stop them getting into the food chain.
The authority would then share information with London borough councils to find out if Southend oysters were appearing on tables in the capital.
Deputy council leader John Lamb, who is also chairman of the Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries Conservation Area, said: “We are pleased we can do this and make sure we can take action against people who are coming down here and literally stripping the foreshore of all that’s there.”
Safety watchdog the Food Standards Agency’s fraud team has agreed to contribute £75,000 to boost investigations and enforcement against oyster pickers over the next year.
The cash would pay for two experienced council officers to work on the issue full-time.
The clampdown would also target the commercial harvesting of clams in Southend. The Echo revealed in June, the council carried out two covert surveillance operations last year in a bid to catch people harvesting shellfish and selling them.
Environmental health officers confiscated 600lb of oysters in June after catching two people without paperwork.
The council took legal action against one harvester and seized a haul from another, but the suspect fled before a formal notice could be served on him to enable court action.
Officers are continuing to capture intelligence on the two, who have been found to operate alone and with others.
But the authority has been hamstrung by a lack of resources as most harvesting takes place on weekends and outside normal office hours.
Officers have asked councillors to put aside £30,000 a year from next April to ensure the crackdown continues.
People are allowed to take small amounts of shellfish from the foreshore for personal consumption. If they remove large amounts for commercial sale they need to register with the Port Health Authority London.
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