Food safety associated with products from aquaculture, report of a joint FAO/NACA/WHO study group, 1999
Technical Report Series, No 883
ISBN: 92 4 120883 X
An expert assessment of risks to human health that may arise from the consumption of farmed finfish and crustaceans. Representing the consensus reached by a group of 28 international authorities, the report responds to the urgent need for a complete inventory of all potential risks, an evaluation of their significance and severity, and advice on their reduction or control. The assessment takes on particular significance in view of the growing importance of farmed fish as both a major export commodity and a vital source of protein in low-income food-deficit countries.
Produced by WHO in collaboration with FAO and the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific, the report gives particular attention to practices common in Asia, where 90% of global aquaculture production takes place. Common fish farming practices, associated risks, and strategies for their control are considered for small-scale rural subsistence farms as well as for intensive commercial systems.
The report opens with a review of the significance of aquaculture as one of the fastest growing food sectors in the world and an increasingly important source of sustainable food production. A section on global aquaculture production and food supply describes various systems used in fish farming, outlines current trends, and discusses the significance of production in Asia, where aquaculture supplies both low-value staple-food species for domestic markets and high-value cash-crop species for export. The principles of food safety risk analysis are introduced in the next section, which explains how risk analysis functions to identify food safety hazards and determine their relevance for health. The use of risk analysis in the development of food standards to protect health and facilitate trade is also briefly explained.
Against this background, the core of the report provides a complete assessment of all potential biological and chemical hazards. Biological hazards are presented in the categories of parasites, bacteria, and viruses. For parasites, major attention is given to the risk posed by trematode parasites, especially in areas where the consumption of raw fish is common. An evaluation of hazards associated with human pathogenic bacteria considers bacteria naturally present in the aquatic environment and those present as a result of contamination with human or animal faeces, giving particular attention to hazards associated with Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, and other enterobacteria. For viruses, the report notes that finfish and crustaceans are not usually associated with the spread of viral foodborne disease. Potential hazards from toxic compounds produced by aquatic organisms are also briefly assessed.
The assessment of chemical hazards considers compounds used in the aquaculture system itself or introduced by acute and chronic pollution of waterways or water sources. Separate evaluations are provided for a large number of agrochemicals, chemotherapeutants, metals, feed ingredients, additives, and contaminants, and organic pollutants. Since the risk infectious disease is an ever-present problem in aquaculture, the evaluation gives particular attention to potential health effects arising from the use of antimicrobial agents, the presence of residues in edible fish tissue, and the possible development of antimicrobial resistance.
Strategies for controlling biological and chemical hazards are presented in the next section, which describes the seven principles of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, adapted to aquaculture. To illustrate these principles, four critical control points in an aquaculture system are discussed: site selection, water quality, feed supply, and fish production. The remaining sections point to the need for considerable further research and set out the main recommendations and conclusions reached during the assessment.