PORTLAND — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Maine’s Bigelow Laboratory use of a new method of testing shellfish toxicity that lab officials say is the first of its kind in the nation.

The East Boothbay lab tests shellfish samples provided by the Maine Department of Marine Resources for paralytic shellfish toxins. A laboratory spokeswoman said researchers will now analyze a slurry made of shellfish. The work began this week.

Lab officials said the method replaces an old process that involved testing on mice. That process had been used for 40 years. Officials said the new way is more precise and efficient.

Lab officials said Maine’s rollout of the program will be a model for the rest of the United States. European countries, Australia, and New Zealand use similar methods.

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