Seafood Health & Certification of Seafood
15 Aug, 2012
Seafood is a healthy food choice for people of all ages. It provides key nutrients and healthy protein for everyone from infants to adults. Seafood supplies the nutrients essential for building strong bones, brain development, and healthy immune and cardiovascular systems. However, concerns do exist about the presence of toxins (e.g. mercury and PCBs) in some seafood – marine pollutants can build up in the flesh of fish, which is then consumed by people. This can be of particular concern for certain groups of people, including children and pregnant women. There are a number of non-profit organizations and government agencies with websites that provide advice on recommended consumption levels of fish that consider both the health benefits and toxicity risks.
How Is Seafood Inspected? Many state and federal agencies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Commerce work together to ensure that the seafood we buy is safe and wholesome. Seafood, just like milk, bread, and produce, are subject to the requirements of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, administered by the FDA. Under the FDA’s mandatory fish inspection program as well as voluntary quality inspection programs, the vast majority of seafood in the marketplace is safe to eat.
Inspecting Seafood Performing a sensory test of shrimp The FDA runs a mandatory fish inspection program for all seafood processors and retailers, both domestic and international. Seafood processors are required to implement a program called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP, pronounced “hassip”). Under HACCP, seafood is monitored at critical points along the supply chain. HACCP works by preventing food safety problems from developing rather than testing food after production to see if it is safe.
Instead of relying on food inspectors to detect food safety problems, HACCP shifts the responsibility to seafood processors to ensure their product is safe to eat. Seafood processors examine all parts of their operation for hazards including toxins, chemicals, environmental contaminants, and even physical hazards such as wood, metal, or glass. They keep records at each critical point to be certain the HACCP system is working. Seafood processors must also conduct and document sanitation activities as an extra safety measure.