Monitoring of Norwegian farmed fish showed lower levels of drugs and environmental toxins, and audit found that fish control systems could be improved.
Fish tested for illegal compounds was collected at the farm level by inspectors of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Matilsynet) without prior notice.
In 2021, 2,827 samples, including 14,135 farmed fish, were tested for illegal substances, steroids and unauthorized veterinary drugs. They include Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, Atlantic cod, turbot, arctic char, brown trout, spotted wolffish and Atlantic halibut.
Samples to check for illegal compounds were collected at all stages of culture. Those fish that are tested for approved veterinary drugs and contaminants come from processing plants and represent farmed fish for human consumption.
The Institute of Oceanography analyzed fish for illicit drugs, legally used veterinary drugs and environmental toxins.
No residues of stilbene, steroids, chloramphenicol, nitrofuran or metronidazole were found in any of the samples. In addition, no malachite or bright green residues were detected. According to follow-up investigations, residues of the dye crystal violet were detected in two salmon samples, but this was most likely due to contamination during sampling.
The level of dioxins found in fish fillets was lower than in the previous year. No veterinary drug residues were found and contaminants did not exceed the maximum limits set by the EU, such as mercury, lead and cadmium.
EFTA Audit Results
Meanwhile, the EFTA Supervisory Authority (ESA) The audit found problems with the official control frequency used for fishery products and the approval of Norwegian businesses. Nine recommendations were made.
An assessment in March this year found that the official control system is risk-based and covers the production of fishery products from capture to consumer. It includes eight processing plants, a cold store, four landing sites, a fishing boat and an official control laboratory.
ESA oversees how Iceland and Norway implement European Economic Area (EEA) rules for food safety, feed safety, and animal health and welfare.
Norway is one of the world’s largest producers of fishery products. The biggest export markets are China and EU countries such as Denmark, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands.
From 2019 to 2021, 10 Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) reports on fish were reported from Norway, including three for Listeria and Anisakis resulting products.
The auditor recommends that fish producers develop national guidelines on good practice in the application of hygiene and HACCP principles. Mattilsynet is developing a program to train food inspectors in HACCP system audits.
Issues identified by auditors
Risk-based system based on microorganisms problem, excluding chemicals. Some controls suffer from lack of resources. Auditors found examples of insufficient communication and cooperation between headquarters and regional offices that could lead to the sale of non-compliant products.
Factory and freezer containers are required to be inspected every four years. Factory vessels that cook shrimp need to be inspected annually. Authorities have failed to respect this frequency of inspections. A boat is not approved to cook shrimp, so the frequency of risk-based inspections every four years is wrong.
Auditors found the use of unprotected and damaged wood, pest control issues, poor storage conditions for aquatic products and animal by-products, and water on floors, all of which could lead to cross-contamination.
The review team indicated that the approval process was not always followed.
“There is a risk that businesses are not approved when required, that approved businesses and vessels are conducting unapproved operations, or operating in facilities that do not meet the requirements of EEA health regulations. This may lead to the release of unsafe products on the market.”
Official controls for fishery products reviewed by the review team did not include histamine testing in the relevant fish. Official laboratories in Norway do not perform histamine testing, and all samples received were sent to Sweden for analysis. It has not been verified whether the site is listed as an official laboratory by Swedish authorities.
Mattilsynet said it will develop a risk-based sampling plan, including histamine, and will triage laboratory situations by 2023.
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