England and Wales

Classification and monitoring

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) sets out the overall policy for the monitoring and classification of shellfish harvesting areas and makes all final classification decisions (from their London and Cardiff offices).

 There are two classification systems in England and Wales: 

  1. the annual or "temporary" classification system
  2. the long-term classification (LTC) system (only applies to eligible class B areas).

New areas are initially given annual/temporary classifications until they meet the criteria for an LTC. Harvesting sites that do not meet LTC criteria are automatically classified under the annual/temporary classification system.

The process

All new harvesting areas are required to have a full sanitary survey/Provisional Representative Monitoring Point (PRMP) assessment prior to the preparation of a sampling plan. The plan identifies appropriate monitoring points for the site(s) in question.

Food Business Operators wishing to harvest in an unclassified area should speak in the first instance to their Local Authority. Applications to harvest are to be completed in conjunction with the relevant Local Authority and submitted to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). A verification check will be carried out and once completed the application will be sent for a Provisional Representative Monitoring Point Assessment.  This will take the form of a desk study, in order to determine a sampling plan whereby a period of preliminary sampling will be carried out to assess the microbiological standard of the water and a classification category will be awarded. Once the site is classified harvesting can commence.

For full details see the Classification Protocol for England and Wales (see below).

Cefas manages the microbiological monitoring programme in England and Wales, on behalf of the FSA and according to an agreed protocol. Our scientists make recommendations for classification based on the E. coli data returned under this monitoring programme. 

The protocol for classification of shellfish production areas in England and Wales can be found on the FSA website.


Decisions about the classification of harvesting areas is based on the data on this website. The E. coli data is viewable in list and graphical form for each representative monitoring point (RMP). E.coli data for RMPs is downloadable in CSV file format. Classification zone maps are also available to view or download for each type of shellfish classified. Sampling plans are kept under review, particularly with regard to logistical issues and stock location, and may be amended or refined. Sampling plans are initially determined by the sanitary survey.

All data is published under the Open Government Licence.