The safety of farm-raised seafood has become an issue of increasing concern in the US. An obvious approach to help assure the safety of our food is to have the various government agencies with responsibility inspect and certify all foods against chemical and biological contamination. When one considers the enormity and potential expense of this task it becomes clear that it is not a reasonable approach. A better approach is to combine limited inspection with on farm education in Good Aquacultural Practices (GAqP) that will improve the safety of foods shipped from the farms. Nowhere is this more important than in foods imported from overseas, production sources over which the US has little control other than shutting off imports. For exporters the potential closure of US markets is a strong incentive to cooperate. In the last few years FDA has detained approximately 10% of the imported shrimp shipments at port of entry because they tested positive for Salmonella, resulting in financial losses to producers and increased costs for inspection services.
The JIFSAN GAqP Program is based on the Train-the-Trainer concept. Trainees of this program will in turn train processors in safe handling and quality control.
Why is GAqP Training Needed?
The majority of the concerns for the safety and quality of raw aquaculture products originate at the farm level, where there is little or no training or regulatory oversight. These concerns include contamination with human pathogens such as Salmonella and chemical contaminants, usually misused or unapproved chemotherapeutic drugs.
Seafood processors, in contrast, have several types of food safety training available to them and usually have their own safety and quality control programs. They are required worldwide to comply with HACCP and GMP and must undergo regulatory inspections by officials at the local, state, and federal level.
Although aquaculture production controls are enforced in the United States, the majority of our aquaculture-produced seafood is imported. Shrimp is the most traded seafood product in the world. In the United States, 86% of the shrimp, salmon, tilapia and other fish and shellfish come from other countries. Most of this is shrimp. The largest exporters of shrimp to the US are China, Bangladesh, and South Korea although numerous other countries supply the U.S. and the list is growing.
The GAqP Train-the-Trainer Program is a five-day in-country training course for extension specialists or their equivalent and other individuals from the country with responsibilities for education and outreach on aquaculture food safety. After completing the JIFSAN course the participants are expected to deliver their own training programs in-country and report their activities to JIFSAN.
JIFSAN initially collaborated with the Johnson Diversey Corporation and enlisted experts from academia and the FDA to develop the GAqP training program. The pilot program was offered in Vietnam in 2006. Since then the program materials have been improved and the content expanded to meet the needs of international producers.
Seafood HACCP Certification
One of the best tools to help ensure food safety along the supply chain is the adoption of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) protocols. As an adjunct to the GAqP program JIFSAN now offers GAqP/HACCP, a multi-faceted training program in seafood HACCP. Participants in the GAqP/HACCP program start by registering and completing the online Seafood HACCP Alliance course offered by Cornell University. Candidates then complete the face-to-face portion of the training as an added component of JIFSAN’s standard GAqP program. Upon completion participants earn AFDO/Seafood Alliance seafood HACCP certification.