Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains
©FAO/Omar Penarubia
  • Supportive Policy Environment
  • Application of Appropriate Technology
  • Skills and Knowledge
  • Services and Infrastructure
  • Regulatory Environment
  • Social and Gender Equity
  • Markets

Regulatory Environment for Fresh Fish Retail

The Codex Alimentarius Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products is a reference point for good practice which often becomes the basis of standards and legal requirements. As well as guidance on general good handling and hygiene and the use of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), the Code includes guidance on good retail practice:   

  • Fish, shellfish and their products at retail should be received, handled, stored and displayed to consumers in a manner that minimizes potential food safety hazards and defects and maintains essential quality.  
  • Products should be purchased from known or approved sources under the control of competent health authorities that can verify HACCP controls.  
  • Retail operators should develop and use written purchase specifications designed to ensure food safety and desired quality levels.  
  • Retail operators should be responsible for maintaining quality and safety of products.  
  • Chilled products should be stored in a hygienic manner at temperatures less than or equal to 4 °C (40 °F), MAP products at 3 °C (38 °F) or lower. 
  • Products in an open full display should be protected from the environment by using, for example, display covers (sneeze guards).
  • At all times, displayed seafood items should be held at temperatures and in conditions that minimize the development of potential bacterial growth, toxins and other hazards in addition to loss of essential quality.  
  • Consumer information at the point of purchase, for example, placards or brochures that inform consumers about storage, preparation procedures and potential risks of seafood products if mishandled or improperly prepared, is important to ensuring that product safety and quality are maintained.  
  • A system of tracking the origin and codes of fish, shellfish and their products should be established to facilitate product recall or public health investigations in the event of the failure of preventive health protection processes and measures. 

The Code goes on to provide guidance on the reception, storage and display of fish, shellfish and their products at retail.

Recommendations for Avoiding Physical Damage

Recommendations for Avoiding Physical Damage

To avoid physical damage, physical/biochemical change owing to stress of live fish during harvesting, the Code recommends that:

  • Appropriate harvesting techniques should be applied to minimize physical damage and stress.
  • Live fish should not be subjected to extremes of heat or cold or sudden variations in temperature and salinity.
  • Fish should be free from excessive mud and weed soon after being harvested by washing with clean seawater or freshwater under suitable pressure.
  • Fish should be purged, where necessary, to reduce gut contents and pollution of fish during further processing.
  • Harvesting should be rapid so that fish are not exposed unduly to high temperatures.
  • All equipment and holding facilities should be easy to clean and to disinfect and should be cleaned and disinfected regularly and as appropriate.

Guidelines are also included on holding and transportation, storage and transportation of live fish, live fish stored and transported at ambient temperature and live fish stored and transported at low temperatures.

EU Food Safety Regulation

EU Food Safety Regulation

The European Union has one of the largest markets for fish in the world. Producers involved in supplying this market, regardless of whether they are within the EU or outside it, are obliged to abide by two key pieces of food safety legislation that relate to harvesting and handling practices which promote a reduction in food loss and waste (FLW):

These regulations have been used to influence the national legislation in many countries, particularly those exporting fish to the EU market.

EU Regulation 178/2002 (Sections 17 and 19) requires retailers to act responsibly and take unsafe products off the market. Retailer and redistributors (e.g. food banks) must be able to show from where they received their products. Documentation is mandatory for traceability throughout the supply chain (EU Regulation 178/2002, Sections 3 and 18). 

Legislation itself also has an impact on food redistribution. The redistribution of surplus food for charitable purposes is an established practice in European retail. For instance, in France, retail stores with 400 square meters and above are required to provide surplus food to educational or charitable institutions. However, in countries such as the UK, regulations impede redistribution since retailers fear litigation.

Certification is an important aspect of retail. Many retailers require suppliers to be certified according to national and/or global standards which promote food safety and practices which maintain or ensure quality and hence control FLW. 

Although these standards exist, they can still lead to FLW. Quality standards that are too narrow or high may lead to product being rejected by the retailer; for example, if there is a visual impairment such as unusual colour or misshapen. Another practice to reduce food waste applied by some European retailers therefore is to lower quality standards for fresh produce. In this context, the term lowering quality standards refers to selling product with visual impairments that have no effect on food safety or taste.

Additional Legislation in Practice

Additional Legislation in Practice

Other examples of legislation which influence FLW decision making by retailers includes:

The EU Animal By-Products Regulation (ABPR) (1774/2002)

  • This regulates the processing and disposal of products derived from animals and prevent material from animals not fit for human consumption from entering the feed chain. ABPR prohibits the disposal of uncooked or untreated fish products to landfill, and retailers have therefore have had to adopt methods which are ABPR compliant such as rendering, with material also used in production of pet food. Rendering will generate protein meal and an oil component both of which may be used in a range of applications.

The US “Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996”

  • This legislation was brought in to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. The updated 2017 bill: 
    • Improves federal oversight of liability protections for food donation under the Emerson Act by delegating authority of the Act to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; 
    • Expands liability protections to food donations sold at a reduced price; 
    • Expands liability protections to include food service establishments, retailers, educational institutions, restaurants, wholesalers, and farmers that donate food directly to individuals. 
    • Currently, protections only cover donations made to non-profits for ultimate distribution to those in need; 
    • Extends liability protections to explicitly cover past-date foods; 
    • Expands liability protections to mislabelled food if the mislabelling does not relate to food safety.

French Legislation on Food Waste

  • In February 2016, France passed legislation and forced their supermarkets to quit wasting food. Instead of throwing food away that’s approaching or just past the “sell by” dates, they needed to donate them to charity. Food banks now have the benefit of expanding their capacity to hold more donated foods from these supermarkets.

Key Publications

Code Of Practice For Fish And Fishery Products CAC/RCP 52-2003

Global standard that presents information on freezing and cold storage practices which aim to reduce spoilage and waste.

Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin

European Union regulation that guides national requirements related to handling and hygiene. Annex III Section VIII specifically focuses on fish and fishery products.

Animal by-products

Overview of animal by products and links to relevant EU legislation and information.                                

More Resources

More Resources

This website provides information on how to support the achievement of the SDG.3 target on food waste and maximise the contribution of all actors.
Animal By-products
01 January 2018
Overview of animal by products and links to relevant EU legislation and information.
in Germany. The focus is on selling and redistributing agricultural produce with visual impairments, and the drivers and barriers in implementing these practices.