The Fishmonger

Some issues to ponder

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By: The Fishmonger*

A new report has hit the Fishmonger’s desk concerning issues which negatively impact our industry, it has been labelled food fraud, but it is deeper than that.

Anew report has hit the Fishmonger’s desk concerning issues which negatively impact our industry, it has been labelled food fraud, but it is deeper than that.

There is nothing much new in this world assessment which covered eighty countries and seventy-two species but there are some interesting details which we should view and ensure are examined in detail and are part of the industry standards into the future.

“The 11 sins of seafood: Assessing a decade of food fraud reports in the global supply chain” examined seafood fraud incidents over the past 10 years reported via the E.U.’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, Decernis’s Food Fraud Database, HorizonScan, and Lexis-Nexis databases, in order to analyze the types of fraud that occur frequently.

The Fishmonger

The eleven sins which the report highlights negatively impacts on the industry are (in no particular order):

  1. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
  2. Species substitution.
  3. Fishery substitution.
  4. Species adulteration.
  5. Chain of custody abuse.
  6. Catch-method fraud.
  7. Undeclared product extension.
  8. Modern-day slavery.
  9. Animal welfare.
  10. Illegality related to processing methods, and
  11. Illegal or unauthorized international trade.

Interestingly, many of these are fishery issues and are not aquaculture related. Considering it has mainly been the fisherfolk who have been ‘anti-aquaculture’ this is a hard pill to swallow if you are an aqua-farmer and yet being impacted by bad practices by those that have failed to set and follow good standards.

“On the other hand, we are all in the seafood industry, so we need to collaborate with other likeminded people and lift the whole industry.”

Let us not forget that aquafeed is mentioned in the report having been found containing the banned pesticides hexachlorobenzene and β-hexachlorocyclohexane, which are associated with adverse health outcomes when consumed by humans.

“Additionally, it is noted the presence of ruminant DNA, which is not permitted in aquaculture to prevent the transmission of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.”

The Fishmonger recalls a private report conducted in the Middle East found that aquafeed was often treated poorly in the supply chain and rarely checked for inputs which led to many problems. Clearly there is always room for improvement in all we do.

The implications for food safety must be considered paramount. Seafood is marked as one of the main food allergens, which positions seafood as a risk to human health through accidental exposure if a species is mislabelled. Allergic reactions can be triggered by consumption of fish treated with illegal or unauthorized antimicrobials routinely used in aquaculture.

The Fishmonger

People in the industry need to be aware that their actions or non-disclosure can result in potential systemic immunological reactions and anaphylaxis in vulnerable persons.

Aquaculture people can specifically engage in species substitution simply by ensuring that what you sell is sold under the legal name and do the occasional audit on your supply chain of custody to ensure those selling your products are not changing the name for any reason.

Make sure your invoices and paperwork with purchases/sales are aligned regarding fish names. Modern day slavery is a complex issue, and no country is immune and, of course, it is not a sole seafood problem. Fair days work for a fair day’s pay is the creed we all need to follow – that is different in every country but treating your workers with respect is not a difficult concept.

People are your main asset, and you cannot grow unless you have good systems to engage and retain people. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. Animal welfare continues to boil away in the background, and it is an ideal area where the industry could get on the front foot with simple standards which are then locked in globally and even into country regulations.

Getting ahead of the pack here will stop lots of negativity into the future. Strangely, since the pandemic, have you noticed how people have focused more on their pets than other humans?

The Fishmonger

The report identified supply chain pathways vulnerable to criminal practices and urged better recording of fraud cases through a standardized dataset and for additional study of the current vulnerabilities and risks in the seafood supply chain, with the aim of preventing and mitigating fraudulent practices.

Of course, the researchers concluded with the warning that as seafood production increases to meet rising global demand, the opportunity for deceptive and illegal activity compromising the food safety of global seafood supply chains will also increase.

They need to push that angle for continued funding, but the Fishmonger feels it is one of those 80/20 issues – now that does not be-little the issue or say there does not need to be improvement but the good people who do follow the rules are in the majority and they get no comfort through anyone high-lighting that.

One of the failures of our industry, as The Fishmonger has highlighted many times, is the lack of training. With better training, especially at induction, it would install a new and better culture to exist into the future. Without this training there is always a ‘cowboy’ attitude in believing that you can deceive the customer/consumer. That is a culture we do not want to prevail.

Vibrio: everything you need to know and more

The Fishmonger remembers clearly attending a Washington DC conference in 2005 where the presenter from US Center for Disease Control (USCDC) told the audience that there was good news.

He said that only eight people had died from eating oysters in the last year… having gorged on oysters the night before the Fishmonger’s brain went into overdrive!, there was no damage done but from the presentation there was a massive learning issue about the importance of knowing your supplier and how they operate.

The presenter gave a graphic view of what vibrio can do to the human body and how simple processes can ensure you eliminate the bug from the supply chain. It stuck in the Fishmongers mind and has always been at the forefront of decision making in any business activity.

Amazingly people do not want to eat things that may harm them… can you believe that? Sadly, that was never at top of the mind for many oyster fisherfolk who simply refused to engage the cold chain into their activities. The messages finally got through to those people and either they changed to better practices or left the industry – either way that is a win for seafood consumers and industry alike!

The Fishmonger

In July 2022, SafeFish and ASQAAC co-hosted a vibrio science day in Adelaide to bring together researchers and stakeholders with an interest in vibrio research. There were a wide range of presentations on environmental & post-harvest research, finishing with a panel discussion delving into the gaps and next steps.

A keynote presentation was provided by Dr. Jessica Jones from the USFDA which gave an excellent overview of the issue of vibrios and the research that is currently happening in the US. The Science Day highlighted that in Australia this is a complex issue with testing capability (including the imminent change in analytical methods being used) being one of the largest hurdles for the harvest/ processing sectors.

Luckily for us all the presentations were recorded and are now available to view from the SafeFish website: Vibrio Science Day (safefish.com.au). The Fishmonger encourages you to take advantage and view this information so you can keep up to date.

References and sources consulted by the author on the elaboration of this article are available under previous request to our editorial staff.

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