By Catherine Masters

An initial rush on greenshell mussels in the wake of the Lyprinol debate was over in days, supermarkets reported yesterday.

And, so far at least, world demand for the mollusc has not increased.

Jim Jessep, president of the Marine Farming Association, said from Blenheim yesterday that Lyprinol had created wide interest.

However, that had not translated into increased sales.

"But certainly our industry is in a situation where we can't supply demand at the moment for exports anyway."

He said the product had been marketed overseas for some time to restaurants and chefs who wanted it simply because it tasted so good.

"It's a very healthy product ... Our main export is to the United States.

"Somewhere around about 40 per cent of our total production is exported there. But we export to 55 different countries."

The current production of mussel flesh going into Lyprinol was about 1500 to 1600 tonnes a year - a tiny part of last year's overall production of 75,000 tonnes.

David Jose, the seafood merchandise manager for Foodstuffs Auckland (representing Pak 'n Save and New World supermarkets), said the rush on the mussels - after news broke last Friday of their potential as a cancer fighter - was short-lived.

But it had soon been made known that Lyprinol was destroyed with heat, and that each mussel contained only a minute amount of the substance anyway.

"I don't know what the quantity you would need to eat to get up to the concentrated form Lyprinol is but I would suggest it would be quite large and not sustainable for very long ...

"The sales are back to normal now and basically it was, I suppose, a bit of a knee-jerk reaction from the public thinking there were going to be no green-lipped mussels around in a week's time."

The price had also remained stable, selling at between $2 and $2.50 a kilo.

Matthew Hewitt, from mussel exporters Pacifica, said overseas demand had been strong for the past eight months.