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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nationsfor a world without hunger
A workshop in Ghana involving various stakeholders
A workshop in Ghana involving various stakeholders
FAO/FIIU Photo Library

Many countries have undertaken a comprehensive evaluation and reorganization of their fish inspection and control systems in order to improve efficiency, rationalize the use of human resources and harmonize approaches. This evaluation of fish control systems has resulted in the convergence towards the necessity to implement a preventative approach based on risk analysis and on the HACCP principles, away from the traditional approach that relied heavily on end-product sampling and inspection. The new approach requires that:

  • Fish and fishery products are handled/ prepared/processed in certified boats/establishments. The certification process requires that the establishments meet minimal requirements in terms of layout, design and construction, hygiene and sanitation, and pest control;
  • The industry takes responsibility in fish quality control and implements a HACCP-based in-plant quality control program;
  • A regulatory fish safety and quality control authority be in charge of certifying fishing boats and establishments, approving and monitoring in-plant quality control programs and certifying fish and fishery products before distribution.
  • National monitoring programs should be developed where necessary to control the threat of biotoxins and chemical pollutants.
  • For export, an additional control is exercised by the importing party to audit the national control system of the exporting country to ensure that it is at least equivalent to the control system applied by the importing party.

Requirements for a national control system

In order to meet all these requirements, a national fish control system requires the involvement of 4 major stakeholders: the fishery industry, the control authority, the support institutions and the consumer and consumer advocate groups.

The fishery industry should upgrade handling and processing facilities and know-how, and implement the hygienic, GMP and HACCP requirements.

The control authority should update the fish quality and safety legislation, re-organize the control services, train personnel and upgrade the control facilities and laboratories. The legislation should be objective-oriented and not prescriptive, scientifically based, make provisions to take into account scientific developments, be gradually applicable from sea to table, identify clearly preventive, monitoring and corrective measures and involve all the stakeholders.

The support institutions should provide support to train industry and control authority staff, conduct research on quality, safety and risk assessment and provide technical support in these areas.

Role of consumers

Finally, consumers and consumer advocate groups have a counterbalancing role to ensure that safety and quality are not undermined by political and economical considerations when drafting legislation or implementing safety and quality policies. They also have a major role in educating and informing the consumer about the major safety and quality issues.

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