Fish traceability helps consumers buy products that meet standards for microbiological contamination. (Photo: MMO/www.marinemanagement.org.uk)
Govt raises awareness of seafood tracing need
Tuesday, August 21, 2012, 00:40 (GMT + 9)
Government bodies are asking the catering industry to verify that the seafood they purchase can be traced to a legal source. The goal is to keep the sector from buying unsafe, poor quality or illegal seafood.
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and Food Standards Agency (FSA) together with the British Hospitality Association are working to raise awareness of the laws around purchasing of fish and shellfish products. In addition, these entities aim to attract attention to fish caught from unlicensed, unregistered fishing vessels, shellfish harvested from unsafe areas, protected juvenile lobsters and crabs that may be offered for sale directly to the industry.
Under the Registration of Buyers and Sellers (RBS) Scheme 2005, it is a criminal offence to buy fish caught from a boat which is not licensed or registered for commercial fishing. The legislation requires that all buyers and sellers of first sale fish are registered and that all auction sites of first sale fish are designated and, once registered, buyers and sellers are able to buy and/or sell first sale fish and must comply with a series of rules on the provision of sales notes.
RBS was designed to help fisheries administrations keep track of the amount of fish species being landed and sold and also increases traceability of fish, which helps buyers obtain the freshest seafood.
The MMO also coordinates monitoring of imported wild fish products, which require appropriate documentation to obtain customs clearance and help ensure these were sourced legally.
"Caterers should be conscious of the trade in illegal fish caught and sold from unlicensed and unregistered boats. Such supply chains can have a negative impact – both on the price and availability of a wider range of fish for customers. They can also affect fish stocks, a resource we want to protect for future generations,” stated Head of Coastal Operations for the MMO Rod Henderson.
He encouraged anyone who suspects illegal fishing and selling activities to let their local MMO office know.
The FSA is responsible for monitoring the shellfish harvesting industry and classifying safe shellfish harvesting areas.
"Shellfish bought from illegal sources will not have been subjected to the checks which ensure it is fit for human consumption,” Head of the Food Hygiene Policy Branch for the FSA Linden Jack said.
He explained that shellfish from approved beds are checked to ensure they meet standards for microbiological contamination, including E.coli and Salmonella, chemical contamination and algal toxins. This means consumers have no guarantee that illegally harvested shellfish is free from such contamination and are risking their health if they eat it.
"It is important that caterers are able to trace the provenance of all the seafood they use. If they have any doubts, they should ask about the source of supplies and report any suspicious activity to either the MMO or the FSA," he added.
By Natalia Real