Aquatic and Aquacultural Food Safety Center (AAFSC)
The AAFSC program was initiated in November 2009 through meetings with Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation (BSFF) representatives, Bangladesh government officials and JIFSAN, FDA and US Embassy staff. There followed a half-day seminar on the Environment and GAqP and a standard five-day JIFSAN GAqP training program, offered by JIFSAN and FDA trainers, in Kuhlna, Bangladesh.
During this program a small group of participants were selected to become the initial cadre of resident trainers at the AAFSC. In March 2010 a formal MOU between UM and BSFF was signed establishing the AAFSC.
In September 2010 the resident trainers that were selected traveled to the US and participated in an intense two-week internship at the FDA and at aquaculture production facilities at the University of Maryland and at Virginia Tech University.
During the internship the participants worked with the JIFSAN trainers to define components of the GAqP program that they could present and to identify additional areas that were specifically relevant to the Bangladesh industry but were not covered in the existing GAqP program. In November 2010 the JIFSAN GAqP team again traveled to Bangladesh to conduct a training program, but almost a third of the program was presented by four of the Bangladeshi interns who are the core group of trainers at the AAFSC. Four new presentations addressing issues in aquaculture particular to Bangladesh were also developed and presented by the interns.
In December 2011 JIFSAN will again offer its GAqP program in Bangladesh, but the AASC interns/trainers will provide the majority of the program with the JIFSAN trainers acting largely as advisors. In fact JIFSAN and FDA trainers will only present on cleaning and sanitation and on the new US Food Safety Modernization Act.
As important as these developments are they would be of little importance if the AAFSC was not widely supported in Bangladesh. In fact Government of Bangladesh (GoB) included the establishment of the Aquaculture and Aquatic Food safety Center (AAFSC) as a part of aquaculture development strategy under the Economic Growth Program of the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), supported by US AID.
AAFSC also has the support of the Department of Fisheries (DoF) and Bangladesh Aquaculture Alliance. The Centre will work closely with each sector of the aquaculture based industry value chain and also the relevant public sector organizations, in particular, the DoF, Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI), Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI), Department of Livestock Services (DoLS), Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MoFL), Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Labour and Employments and Ministry of Health. The Centre will also work with the appropriate NGOs. However without funding AAFSC cannot be successful.
The AAFSC business plan calls for five year funding of 340 million Bangladeshi Taka (BDT) or US$ 5 million. The AAFSC has already obtained from the Ministry of Commerce 139.6 million BDT ($2M) and is working to raise the remaining $3M.
In subsequent years JIFSAN will work in a supportive advisory capacity to the AASC. With these in-country trainers the capacity of the training program will be greatly expanded while the quality of the program is maintained by continuous interaction with JIFSAN and the FDA.
The AASC has been highly successful in reaching out to small aquaculture producers in rural areas in addition to the larger companies. These small producers would not have had access to GAqP training without the availability of native AAFSC trainers that conduct local programs. The capability of Bangladesh to successfully export its aquaculture products to the U.S. and other countries is enhanced by the fact that its producers are more aware of food safety practices and are more likely to have fewer rejections at foreign borders due to food safety violations.
Progress in Bangladesh led by the AAFSC has been impressive largely due to the leadership of the organization. One of the most important peripheral results of the renewed commitment to aquaculture and GAqPs was the reinvestigation of the nitrofuran contamination of prawns that halted shipment to the EU. Reanalysis showed that previous studies had included prawn shells in the analysis. Analysis of the prawn meat only showed no presence of nitrofuran metabolites. The restriction was removed and exports of Bangladesh shrimp and prawn to the EU were resumed in 2010.
Progress in 2012
The AAFSC has made significant progress in forwarding GAqPs in Bangladesh Their efforts include:
1. Developing a set of training booklets on Good Aquaculture Practices and Codes of Conduct for Aquaculture
2. AAFSC is working to make GAqPs part of the educational experience of Bangladeshi university students.
The Department of Fisheries and Marine Bioscience in Jessore Science and Technology University has developed and is offering two new courses (3 and 1.5 credits) in Good Aquaculture Practices.
To this end they have conducted:
GAqPs Training at the Bangladesh Agricultural University in 2011 that included 30 teachers & advanced students.
A GAqPs training program in June 2012 that included three university deans, professors and 30 teachers.
A third program that included 30 teachers, mostly women, from five colleges.
3. In 2012 the AAFSC established collaboration with the World Fish Center.
The partners are conducting surveys to identify shortcomings in meeting GAqPs guidelines. Seven important shrimp districts are covered in the surveys. The goal is to use the information gathered to develop more realistic training programs. Facilities investigated include:
- Shrimp and prawn farms
- Fish farms: Tilapia, Panguas and climbing perch
- Feed mills
- Feed shops
- Ice plants