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Using hygienic practices in a fish plant helps guarantee product safety
Using hygienic practices in a fish plant helps guarantee product safety
FAO/FIIU Photo Library

The production of safe and quality fish and fishery products requires effective hygienic practices throughout the food chain from fish harvest to consumption.

Food hygiene

Food hygiene relates to "all conditions and measures necessary to ensure the safety and suitability of food at all stages of the food chain". These hygienic measures aim at preventing or reducing fish contamination and microbial growth. They encompass aspects related to the hygienic design of facilities on-board, during transportation, processing and distribution, to personnel hygiene, cleaning, sanitation and pest control.

Regarding the hygienic design of handling, processing, storage and distribution operations, premises, equipment and facilities should be located, designed and constructed to ensure that:

  • contamination is minimized;
  • design and layout permit appropriate maintenance, cleaning and disinfecting and minimize air-borne contamination;
  • surfaces and materials, in particular those in contact with fish, are non-toxic in intended use and, where necessary, suitably durable and easy to maintain and clean;
  • where appropriate, suitable facilities are available for temperature, humidity and other controls, as well as personnel hygiene facilities and toilets and potable water supply; and
  • there is effective protection against pest access and harbourage.

Effective maintenance and sanitation systems should be established to include cleaning and sanitation procedures, pest control systems, waste management and monitoring effectiveness.

All personnel that come directly or indirectly into contact with fish and fish products should maintain an appropriate degree of personal cleanliness and where appropriate, wear suitable protective clothing, head covering and footwear. They should also refrain from behaviour that could result in contamination of food.

During transportation, measures should be taken to protect food from potential sources of contamination, from damage likely to render the food unsuitable for consumption and provide an environment which effectively controls the growth of pathogenic or spoilage microorganisms.

Importance of training

Training is fundamentally important to any food hygiene system. Those engaged in food operations that come directly or indirectly into contact with food should be trained, and/or instructed in food hygiene to a level appropriate to the operations they are to perform.

The Codex Alimentarius has developed an International Code of Practice on the general principles of food hygiene, which has been integrated into the food legislation of many countries, after its adaptation to fish and fishery products. For example, it is a major component of the European Union Directive 91/493 which deals with the sanitary conditions for placing on the market fish and fishery products, and constitutes the basis for the sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOP) of the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in the United States. The European Union and the United States are two major world fish markets.

 
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