Fishmeal and fish oil safety is the cornerstone of ensuring food safety

This article was published in Frontline of Fisheries (China) in April 2020. It can be accessed in full in its Chinese version by clicking on the attached piece below.

The supply of high-quality fishmeal and fish oil is a cornerstone of global food production and as the feed companies know very well, these products supply essential nutrition that is not found in other feed materials in a single package. As well as being the mainstay of global fed aquaculture and the foundation of more than 44.5 million tonnes of farmed fish globally, they also contribute significant nutritional advantages in feed used for pork and chicken production. At the core of this contribution are feed and food safety principles, and with several decades of providing ingredients into the animal feed trade, these are very well known commodities. The marine ingredients industry has a strong foundation in providing safe, highly nutritious materials, manufactured from raw materials that are sourced from the natural environment.

Food safety is, fundamentally, a responsibility of national governments, and is managed through the regulation of food production, which in many jurisdictions extends back through the supply chain into animal production, feed, and feed materials. This is true both in China and Europe. In China, food safety is regarded as a top priority with the protection of the consumer’s health very high on the agenda.  This is reflected by the approach of the Chinese government in a food safety system that has undergone extensive modernisation within the last decade, and which allocates food safety responsibility across several different Ministries and Ministry-level institutions. In Europe, the general objectives of food and feed law, are described as guaranteeing a high level of protection of human life, ensuring free movement and trade of safe feed and safe, wholesome food. 

Overarching the regulatory frameworks of country administrations is the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), which supports national governments and their regulation of food safety.  According to its statutes, Codex is: responsible for making proposals to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on all matters pertaining to the implementation of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, the purpose of which includes: protecting the health of the consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade; promoting coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations; determining priorities and initiating and guiding the preparation of draft standards; finalising and publishing standards. Codex therefore holds a position of influence globally in relation to food safety, and its work draws from national experts from all around the world contributing their knowledge and understanding through an expert groups’ mechanism in Codex.

In effective regulation, national governments generally adopt a risk-based approach, based on science and good risk management principles, whether supported by the Codex standards, their own experts work, or a combination of both. Data is at the heart of this approach, and the marine ingredients industry is an excellent case study for this type of regulation, where there exists decades long datasets of information relating to feed ingredient safety, that is, ultimately, also of relevance to food and the consumer’s health. Occupying, as they do, very important niches not only in protein and energy provision, but in the supply of essential nutrients such as long chain omega-3 fatty acids, this type of information and understanding is vital in producing high quality, safe and nutritious food products for the consumer.    

Neil Auchterlonie