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Canned seafood. (Photo: Stock File)

Canned tuna: health and labour irregularities reported in Thailand and the Philippines

EUROPEAN UNION
Monday, November 05, 2012, 23:20 (GMT + 9)

The National Association of Manufacturers of Canned Fish and Shellfish (Anfaco-Cecopesca) reported that the European Union (EU) rejected canned tuna imports from Thailand after detecting incompliance with hygiene and health legislation in different countries from which products flow in the EU market.

According to Anfaco, the experts found that the heat treatment the canned tuna was subjected to was inadequate.

Since last February, Brussels proceeded "17 rejections of Thai canned tuna inflow due to an improper heat treatment," according to the data from the EU Early Warning System network, which channels the information between the European Commission (EC) and EU countries about potential food safety risks.

To Anfaco, such rejections pose "a high concentration of warnings," which shows serious flaws in the monitoring of Thai companies and of national authorities.

The entrepreneurship argues that "the EC should overrule Thai health authorities for not making sufficient and necessary controls to ensure sanitary-hygiene conditions for export of cans to the EU."

At present, Thailand is one of the world's leading canned tuna producers in the world, with over 400,000 tonnes per year, or nearly one third of the world total.

Twenty per cent of European imports of those canned products from third countries comes from Thailand.

Through a statement, Anfaco denounced the "improper heat treatment" of the tuna cans, which "seriously jeopardizes the stability and health of canned products and therefore, the consumer safety, since it is a critical parameter to ensure the bacteria destruction or inactivation and that of all forms of resistance, such as those of Clostridium botilinum (botulinum toxin producer, which causes botulism)."

Furthermore, Anfaco spread the results of a study carried out by the consulting agency Verité and funded by the Department of Labour of the United States, which has revealed that the Philippine tuna industry does not meet the labour rights conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), signed by Manila.

The Philippines is the second country in the world as to tuna catches and the fifth one in canned product manufacture.

Anfaco highlights that according to the report, which releases the results of the research conducted between 2008 and 2011, the Philippine tuna industry workers (engaged in fishing and processing) are in a total subjugation and helplessness situation because:

  • They have no system for making complaints, and those workers who make a complaint are included in a blacklist that would prevent them from being hired again;
  • In the processing sector, workers -- mostly women -- changed from having a direct relationship with the company to being hired through labour cooperatives that keep them in constant insecurity because of their temporary status and because of the difficulty of having a direct relationship with the company, hindering the existence union or labour organizations;
  • Although minimum wages are set, they are not met and the established eight working hours increase continuously without additional compensation bonus;
  • Often working conditions of Filipino tuna fishing vessels are understood, without a formal contractual relationship, which makes working conditions during the tides dependable on the owner without a specificity of the journey length, the destination or revenue sharing;
  • In addition, the current system of wages payment to tuna boat fishers creates a permanent debt with the shipowner or company, and does not ensure worker benefits.

Related article:

- Canners require annual quota of 30,000 tonnes of tuna without tariffs

By Analia Murias
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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