HACCP Hassles.There are serious deficiencies in a program intended to ensure the safety of seafood sold in the United States, according to a January 2001 report issued by the General Accounting Office (GAO). Food Safety: Federal Oversight of Seafood Does Not Sufficiently Protect Consumers criticizes the effectiveness of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA FDA
Food and Drug Administration
n.pr See Food and Drug Administration.
n.pr the abbreviation for the Food and Drug Administration. ) in overseeing the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP HACCP
hazard analysis critical control points. , pronounced "hassip") system for seafood. HACCP programs aim to prevent food safety problems in several different categories rather than find them after they occur. But according to FDA statistics, by 1999 only 44% of seafood firms had a complete HACCP plan.
Under HACCP, processors develop individualized plans detailing "critical control points" and document their monitoring of these critical areas. Critical control points are steps or procedures in production where food safety hazards are especially likely to occur if precautions aren't taken. For example, a critical control point in the handling of tuna involves keeping the fish cold enough to prevent the formation of the histamines that cause scombroid poisoning scom·broid poisoning
Poisoning from ingestion of heat-stable toxins produced by bacterial action on inadequately preserved dark-meat fish of the order Scombroidea, including tuna, bonito, mackerel, albacore, skipjack. . Although seafood processors and distributors are responsible for developing their own HACCP plans, a process that can be costly and time-consuming, the FDA must ultimately ensure compliance.
According to the National Seafood Industry HACCP Implementation Report, issued by New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Sea Grant in April 2000, HACCP plans are proportionately more expensive for small companies than for large ones. Companies with sales of under $500,000 a year spend about 3% of their income on HACCP programs, compared to about 0.5% by companies with average annual sales of over $3 million.
"HACCP is a great concept but has been very poorly implemented," says Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer rights group. "To do their job properly, [the FDA is] going to need a huge increase in staff," says Corbo. The official FDA response to the report agrees that the seafood HACCP program has deficiencies, and the agency has requested additional funds from Congress to improve safety inspections, including user fees to be charged to seafood import-export companies.
No data are available on how HACCP has affected the incidence of seafood-related illness; the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agency of the U.S. Public Health Service since 1973, with headquarters in Atlanta; it was established in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center. date from 1997, the year the seafood HACCP program was established. By those estimates, contaminated finfish finfish
fish with fins, that is teleosts, elasmobranches, holocephalids, agnathids and cephalochordates; also a fish marketer's term used to include that section of marketable fish which is neither shellfish nor molluscs. and crustaceans cause about 15% of the 76 million foodborne illnesses reported in the United States each year. More than 80% of the seafood-related outbreaks were caused by scombrotoxin or ciguatoxin ciguatoxin /ci·gua·tox·in/ (se´gwah-tok?sin) a heat-stable toxin originating in the dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus toxicus , heat-resistant toxins found in warmwater species of fish.
The report criticized the FDA for implementing the seafood HACCP program before establishing baseline levels of seafood contamination (in contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture established baseline contamination levels before implementing meat and poultry HACCP programs). The GAO further questioned the lack of HACCP standards for fishing vessels Customary International Law provides that coastal fishing boats and small boats engaged in trade, as distinguished from seagoing fishing boats and large traders, are immune from attack and seizure during war. This Immunity is lost if fishing vessels take part in the hostilities. . To this charge, the FDA counters that most processing on vessels is minimal--heading and gutting--and that these steps can actually enhance seafood quality by allowing fish to cool faster and removing blood and bacteria-harboring internal organs, which can contribute to spoilage spoilage
decomposition; said of meat, milk, animal feeds especially ensilage. . The GAO report also expressed concern that, although the FDA has issued warnings about methylmercury contamination in seafood, exposure to this highly toxic highly toxic Occupational medicine adjective Referring to a chemical that 1. Has a median lethal dose–LD50 of ≤ 50 mg/kg when administered orally to 200-300 g albino rats 2. substance "is not identified or covered in FDA's seafood guide as a hazard reasonably likely to occur."
The GAO does recognize the seafood HACCP program's successes. FDA inspections of HACCP plans are now scheduled to occur yearly instead of once every four years. In addition, many seafood firms report improving safety procedures, primarily in sanitation and temperature control, as a result of the HACCP program, according to the New York Sea Grant report.
However, processors are frustrated because they don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. if improvements in procedures have resulted in safer seafood reaching consumers, says Richard Gutting, Jr., president of the National Fisheries Institute The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) is a United States advocacy organization for the seafood industry and is a member of the International Coalition of Fisheries Associations (ICFA). , an Arlington, Virginia-based trade association. Gutting says processors want to see a scientific basis for FDA activities. "What neither the GAO nor the FDA have done is complete a scientific analysis of the relationship between frequency of inspection and levels of compliance," says Gutting. The FDA is currently working on such a study, according to Philip C. Spiller, director of the FDA Office of Seafood.