Norway fish product controls unsatisfactory – EFTA

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority is responsible for official controls of LBMs
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority is responsible for official controls of LBMs

Related tags: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, Norway

Controls on live bivalve molluscs (LBMs) in Norway are not fully in line with regulation with limited progress since the last audit, according to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) surveillance authority.

An audit from the authority found official controls are not fully coordinated, the effectiveness, appropriateness, consistency and quality on live bivalve molluscs at all levels are not ensured.

A national monitoring programme is in place but it cannot be considered fully compliant and appropriate decisions after monitoring are not always ensured, said EFTA.

The last audit on the area was in 2009 to ensure compliance with European Economic Area (EEA) legislation.  

Production volume in Norway for main LBM species are blue mussels 2328.4 tonnes in 2013, 23 tonnes of Great Atlantic scallops, 5 tonnes of Oysters and 6.8 tonnes of other species from registered production areas.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) is the competent authority responsible for official controls of LBMs.

Noted deficiencies

The audit team visited one dispatch centre and two dispatch and purification centres​.

In these establishments they noted deficiencies in HACCP systems, traceability was not always fully ensured and shortcomings were detected related to validation of purification processes.

In neither of the two purification centres, did the competent authority confirm that the parameters applied in the purification process were adequate to ensure a reduction in the microbiological level of contamination to the prescribed limits.

The audit team said although a system is in place to ensure official controls, it cannot always be ensured they are carried out in line with the relevant regulation.

NFSA said it will ensure duration of purification of LBM from B and C areas at the purification centres are adequate to ensure food safety ad make sure it is part of the HACCP plan in these sites.

According to NFSA, a production area can be granted a permanent classification following at least 12 shellfish samples, analysed for E.coli, in a period of one year. To maintain the classification at least six samples have to be taken each year.

Production area samples

According to information provided by Norway in 2014, there were 1,341 official samples of phytoplankton analysed, 480 of biotoxins and 236 for E. coli. Official samples analysed for heavy metals were 28, 9 for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and 10 for dioxins.

Not all active production areas are periodically monitored in Norway, found the audit.

It also found it is not ensured production areas are only re-opened after at least two consecutive results below the biotoxin regulatory limit and production areas are closed for harvesting when results of sampling indicate a problem.

NFSA said it will establish internal control routines to ensure correct sampling frequency for toxins analysis in LBM in line with the relevant regulation.

“Based on a documented risk assessment, sampling frequency for toxin analysis could be reduced only when such documentation exists. The concrete follow up will be an issue on the professional meetings for seafood inspectors at regional level, as well as on training seminars and courses for the staff in charge.”

The National Reference Laboratory received 305 LBM samples in relation to the national monitoring programme in 2013 and 106 samples were directly sent by farmers.

A total of 15% of samples in 2013 provided results above the class A limit of 230/100g of E.coli.

Regarding chemical contaminants, in 2013 the laboratory analysed 40 LBM samples. None of the concentrations of heavy metals, PCBs and PAH exceeded the EEA maximum level.

E. coli testing is done using the most probable number (MPN) test and heavy metals analysis are done by ICP-MS.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and partners are investigating an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in British Columbia and Alberta​ linked to raw shellfish.

A total of 72 cases have been reported in British Columbia (53) and Alberta (19) and one case has been hospitalized. Individuals became sick between June 1 and August 7.

A recall was issued last week for oysters harvested fromBritish Columbia coastal waters on or before August 18 and intended for raw consumption due to possible contamination.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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