Food quality, including safety, is a major concern facing the food industry today. A number of surveys have shown that consumer awareness about quality of their food is increasing. The extensive coverage in the daily press of food safety issues such as the BSE crisis, concerns about genetically modified foods, use of growth promoters, existence of pesticide and dioxin residues in food, the Salmonella problem, transfer between micro organisms of resistance to commonly used antibiotics add to consumers' fear and unease about what they eat.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that many consumers suffer from a serious lack of knowledge on simple food safety issues. Thus, less than one percent of US and Canadian consumers met minimum criteria for acceptable safety practices in a North America audit of food preparation behaviour, in which 106 consumers agreed to be watched while preparing food (Daniels, 1998). In a similar study, only 4.7% of UK consumers fully implemented appropriate food safety control practices (Griffith et al., 1998). Furthermore, most consumers exhibit a general disbelief in the importance of good handling practices and a great resistance to effective protective treatment such as chemical preservation or irradiation. As a consequence, there is an increasing demand for more fresh or even raw food with enhanced natural flavours and produced with less or no use of salt and other preservatives.
A great number of socio-economic changes such as increased urbanization (crowding), migrations and population demographics are further contributing to the safety of foods. The population of highly susceptible persons is expanding worldwide because of ageing, malnutrition, HIV infections and other underlying medical conditions with a weakened immune system.
To meet these challenges, food manufacturing is becoming a highly complex business, particularly since raw material is sourced on a global scale and new processing technologies are used to produce a vast array of products. Much research is needed to evaluate new techniques and to consider food safety issues at all stages, from production of raw materials to sale of final product.
Despite great efforts in research, food-borne diseases continue to present a major problem of both health and economic significance. The cost of food-borne disease is high. Although the full economic impact is not known, preliminary estimates in the United States in 1994 placed the cost between US$ 10-83 billion (FDA, 1997). Some of this huge cost is borne by the food-producing company - and loss of consumer confidence may even cause bankruptcy - but the great majority is borne by the government. It has become overwhelmingly clear that all countries need an adequate food control programme to ensure a safe food supply to protect and promote the health of the consumer.
Yet, food safety is not only a consumer concern, but also at the very root of a properly functioning market. Food safety as a prerequisite for protecting consumer health also serves the interest of producers and those involved in processing and marketing foodstuffs. The production and consumption of food is central to any society and has a wide range of economic, social and in many cases environmental consequences.
Food control includes all activities carried out to ensure the quality and safety of food. Every stage from initial production to processing, storage, marketing and consumption must be included in a food quality and safety programme. The overall goal is to provide a systematic approach to all control and inspection activities through a managed programme based on proper scientific principles and appropriate risk assessment, leading to careful targeting of inspection and control resources. Furthermore, the risk assessment must be transparent, i.e. it must be carefully documented, including any constraints that may have affected the quality of the risk estimate and fully available to independent assessors. Sufficient financial and personnel resources must be made available. However, it must be emphasized that no management system can offer zero risk in terms of consumer health protection.
Fish and fishery products are in the forefront of food safety and quality improvement because they are among the most internationally traded food commodities. In 2001, fish trade amounted to US$ 54 000 million, of which approximately 50 percent originated in developing countries.
The first part of this publication provides some of the information required to make risk assessment for seafood products. It shows that in many situations the essential data needed to perform a formal quantitative risk assessment are currently not available. However, in most cases, semi-quantitative risk assessments are more than sufficient to allow for appropriate control action.
The second part outlines the risk management strategies used in seafood processing today. The prerequisite to use the HACCP system and the HACCP system itself are outlined in detail as examples of risk management programmes.
The management of other quality parameters such as spoilage and shell life of seafood, chemicals and physical quality aspect are discussed in a final Chapter.
The present publication is an update and expansion of an earlier document by Hans Henrik Huss (1994) Assurance of Seafood Quality. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 334.
Daniels, R.W. 1998. Home food safety. Food Technology 52, 54-56.
FDA (Food and Drug Administration) 1997. Food Code. US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, FDA, Washington DC, USA.
Griffith, C., D. Worsfold & R. Mitchell 1998. Food preparation, risk communication and the consumer. Food Control 9, 225-232.
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