Proposed seafood inspection program getting closer to implementation in USA.
Lee Weddig, NFI executive vice president, said, "Because of the international character of the seafood industry, the scope of this new regulatory program effectively extends throughout the world. HACCP will enhance the safety of all commercial seafood products."
It is believed that the FDA will take about nine months to review public commentary regarding the comprehensive regulatory program. Final regulations are expected to be published in early 1995, with an effective date of one to two years later.
Meanwhile, the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) has let the FDA know its opinion in no uncertain terms. President Steven C. Anderson recently declared that requiring a mandatory HACCP program for low risk products such as frozen fish and seafood is not only unnecessary to protect public health, but could actually undermine the progress companies are making to develop their own HACCP systems.
"Most foodborne illness outbreaks are the result of mishandling or temperature abuse, either by the consumer at home or by foodservice operators," he said. "FDA, therefore, should concentrate its primary efforts in these areas."
AFFI holds that mandatory programs should be required by the regulatory agencies only when fish or seafood contains a sensitive ingredient that does not undergo further processing, and when a substantial body of evidence exists based on epidemiological, scientific and clinical data that the food product may present a significant risk to public health.
"Mandatory adoption of HACCP as suggested in FDA's proposal would overwhelm the system with undertrained and inexperienced FDA and industry HACCP 'experts,' thereby undermining HACCP programs before they have even become effective," said Anderson. "The system ultimately could collapse under its own weight of so many individuals and companies changing the method by which they establish new food safety parameters."
AFFI also urged the FDA to further define in its proposal the extent to which fish or seafood must be present in a product to require implementation of the fish and fishery product HACCP rule. The frozen food trade association believes the scope of the proposed rule, which applies to all products "derived in whole or in part from fish which has been processed in any manner," is too broad.
According to AFFI, even if the application of mandatory HACCP is limited to those products that present a substantial safety risk, the rule should be limited further to fish or fishery defined as: derived in whole from seafood; derived in part from seafood, with seafood being a major and characterizing ingredient; derived in part from seafood constituting 10% or more of the finished product; or derived in part from seafood if the processor's safety analysis determines that the seafood ingredient constitutes a significant safety risk and adequate controls are absent.
NFI Wants Changes
The National Fisheries Institute, while endorsing the basic concepts proposed by the FDA, has recommended a series of changes including:
* Fishing vessels which do not deliver to HACCP plants and retailers not subject to the Model Food Code should be included in the HACCP program;
* Specific sanitation procedures should not be a part of the regulations, but rather continue to be addressed through Good Manufacturing Practice requirements;
* Mandatory HACCP control points should be limited to health hazards;
* Consumer complaints should not be a part of HACCP;
* Product handling labels should not be mandated;
* All firms, including importers, should have two years to comply with regulations starting from the date they are published in final form in the Federal Register.
Weddig said, "This two year implementation is important to allow adequate training time for the industry and government inspectors. It also would provide adequate opportunity to negotiate government-to-government agreements with the many foreign agencies responsible for inspecting the more than 2.8 billion pounds of seafood that are exported to the United States annually."
Having said that, the NFI executive vice president is encouraging those firms that are able and willing to implement HACCP systems before the mandatory deadline. "Such would meet the requirements of both Canada and the European Union that are beginning to require HACCP for their imported seafood products, as well as foster increased consumer confidence in seafood products," he pointed out.
In addition to supporting domestic HACCP training programs, NFI has discussed the new seafood inspection program with industry representatives in Mexico, Japan, New Zealand and with the International Coalition of Fisheries Associations. It is estimated that approximately 50% of the seafood that is consumed in the USA is imported, and that American exports account for perhaps as much as 40% of commercial seafood production.
VIS Attracts Equipment VIPs
Processing equipment will be one of the big attractions at the VIS 94 Seafood Show in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Sept. 12-14. Of course, there will also be plenty of new fish and seafood products, frozen and otherwise.
Sites for the show are the RAI Exhibition Center and the Congress Center. For more information, contact the Project Management Department of the RAI Center, 1078 GZ, Amsterdam; telephone 31-20-549-1212.
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|Publication:||Quick Frozen Foods International|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1994|
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