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In the European Union, the classification of shellfish harvesting areas depends on levels of Escherichia coli checked in shellfish flesh and determines whether post-harvest treatment required before shellfish can be sold for human consumption. Nevertheless, intermittent sources of contamination, such as rainfall and runoff from agricultural and urban lands, may give rise to seasonal variations of E. coli concentration, hence an annual classification could not be correct. In this study, we investigated the microbial trend in clams (Chamelea gallina) harvested from the district of San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy. The Algaeadria database, a monitoring network for the whole Adriatic area, provided results from 2005 to 2012. E. coli values compliant and non-compliant with food safety criteria were evaluated by graphical data analysis tools and one-tailed Fisher’s exact test. The results showed a clear general seasonal trend and, in one of the considered areas, the non-compliant values from July to February were significantly lower than those from March to June (P<0.05). These findings may scientifically support a seasonal classification.
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