The technical program is underpinned by a strategy to identify current and emerging food safety and market access issues, prioritize these issues, and undertake technical work to provide potential solutions to overcome those of highest priority.

Four rounds of this strategy have been facilitated by SafeFish to date, May 2011, June 2014, October 2016 and the most recent in July 2019. In order to scope and prioritise the issues that were identified, SafeFish produced the following reports that contained information such as background, sectors affected, trade and market access information, public health impact, regulatory issues, economic impacts, reputational impacts – media and political, and environmental/sustainability issues that may have been present.

May 2011
Hazards affecting Australian seafood

June 2014
Hazards affecting Australian seafood

October 2016
Hazards affecting Australian seafood

July 2019
SafeFish Prioritisation Workshop report 2019

Using this information, the SafeFish partners then prioritised the issues through a risk ranking process. On the alternate years, a smaller in-house process of issue identification and prioritisation was run by the secretariat and the partners to set the work plan for that interim period.

CURRENT ISSUES

For the 2019 to 2021 period, SafeFish is facilitating technical work on the following issues which were identified as high-priority:

Review of the microbiological criteria relating to seafood in the Australian/New Zealand Food Standards Code

SafeFish will facilitate an Australian/New Zealand review of the microbiological criteria relating to seafood in the Food Standards Code to remove all process hygiene matters from the criteria and to include these in a separate guidance document for industry. The aim is to ensure the criteria are fit for purpose for the current risk-based preventative approach to food safety management. The review will be science based and fully consultative to ensure that the changes to the standard and the guidance document appropriately meet the needs and requirements of the Australian/New Zealand seafood industries. The process will begin with a workshop open to all interested parties, with further opportunities for input provided during the development of the recommendations and guidance documents.

Risk management of vibriosis in the shellfish industry

In order to better understand and manage the emerging risk of vibriosis in the shellfish industry, SafeFish will review all Australian cases relating to vibrios in bivalve seafood and incorporate this information into a note for publication in the Journal for Communicable Disease Intelligence.  In addition, given the critical food safety risk potential, SafeFish will also investigate the potential to include vibriosis as a notifiable disease in all states (not just some as currently occurs). This needs further and careful consideration related to the impact of the approach, particularly to improve industry, researcher and regulator understanding for implementing best-practice risk management. A significant event to ensure this happens will be a workshop that SafeFish will facilitate with industry and other interested parties that will include international experts.

Risk management of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in Australia

To improve risk management of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) in Australia, SafeFish will raise awareness of CFP in Australian health care workers (General Practitioners (GP), Environmental Health Officers, Health Departments), First we will conduct an online survey to gauge the current understanding of ciguatera, generate awareness of the issue and offer participants the chance to propose their preferred format for awareness/promotional materials. Targeted materials would then be prepared and distributed and a report detailing survey results prepared for a GP journal (Communicable Diseases or similar). Better reporting is an initial step to improve the understanding of CFP, identify hot spots, and assist in research to provide risk management awareness.

Finalization of 2017-2018 work program: Harmonisation of marine biotoxin standards in the Food Standards Australian, New Zealand (FSANZ) Code

SafeFish is in the final stages of drafting an application to request FSANZ to review the current marine biotoxin maximum levels (MLs) applicable to seafood in Standard 1.4.1, section 19 of the FSANZ Food Standards Code (FSC), with a view to harmonizing the code with other International standards. Currently in Australia, shellfish producers are facing the situation of having different regulatory standards applied for marine biotoxins, depending on whether the product is destined for domestic or international trade. This has caused confusion and extra work for regulators to prepare the data. By harmonising the MLs, it will allow the Australian industry to follow the same rules as other international bodies which will resolve the issues mentioned above, as well as facilitate improved market access. The application will request that FSANZ reviews the following variations between Codex (Standard 292-2008 and Standard 312-2013) and the FSC:

  1. The maximum level (ML) allowed for DST in molluscan bivalve shellfish is 0.16mg/kg in Codex, but 0.20mg/kg in the FSC
  2. PST are reported in saxitoxin dihydrochloride (STX.2HCL) equivalents in Codex, but as STX equivalents in the FSC