Every food processing line benefits from hygienic engineering and design, but fish processing is particularly receptive for microbiological contamination. That’s why every fish handling process should comply with the latest EHEDG guidelines. It is also why EHEDG published a new guideline dedicated exclusively to fish processing.
Food Technologist Sanja Vidaček Filipec is Associate Professor at the University of Zagreb and the Chair of the EHEDG Working Group Fish Processing. She talks about the unique hygienic design challenges in fish processing and explains how the new EHEDG Fish Processing Guideline 49 can help to tackle fish processing challenges and minimise contamination risks.
What sets industrial fish processing apart from other food handling processes?
Sanja Vidaček Filipec: “Firstly, fish come in all sorts, shapes, and sizes and varieties differ greatly around the world. Consequently, there are many technical approaches to processing fish. This represented a challenge for our working group members who committed themselves to develop a comprehensive and international industry guideline. Secondly, fish processing environments are always humid, and humidity is the single most compromising factor for food safety because it manifolds the risk of microbiological contamination. Thirdly, since fish is highly perishable, speed and efficiency are particularly important in fish processing, even more so than in processing red meat or even poultry. That’s why fish trailers freeze their fish right after each catch. It is also why modern industry fish processing lines that make good use of EHEDG guidelines not only optimize their food safety and food quality conditions but also their efficiency and productivity.”
Why did it take until now to develop this guideline?
“In the past years EHEDG published technical guidelines on specific areas of open processing that also apply to fish processing - we refer to quite a lot of them in this new guideline. It took quite some time before all those separate guidelines were detailed enough to support a comprehensive guideline on fish processing. In the meantime, our working group focused on developing a set of fundamental hygienic design principles that would apply to different types of fish processing plants, in line with the basic hygienic design principles in EHEDG Guideline 8. This EHEDG Fish Processing Guideline 49 offers just that and more because it also addresses hygienic aspects that are specific to contemporary fish processing techniques, like the use of vacuum systems to remove by-products. EHEDG Fish Processing Guideline 49 took several years to develop because there are so many food safety and food quality determining aspects to industrial fish processing that had to be investigated. On a detailed level, every fish processing plant has to apply this guideline in accordance with their circumstances.”
Who should read this guideline?
“Everyone involved in the processing of salmon, white marine fish, and freshwater fish can put this guideline to excellent use. EHEDG Fish Processing Guideline 49 is even applicable for fish processing on fishing vessels. Overall, this new guideline offers great value during the procurement process, the plant design, installation, and microbiological sampling phase. It provides a comprehensive overview of all the everyday hazards and challenges of fish processing and does so in clear, non-technical descriptions. All members of our working group wanted to make sure that everyone could understand the principles. We expect this guideline to contribute to a more widespread awareness of food safety and food quality determining aspects of fish processing on all levels in the industry. Now every decision-maker in the fish industry can refer to this guideline and specify what is meant when requesting hygienic design solutions. Moreover, equipment producers striving to certificate new equipment for the fish processing industry know what criteria their components have to comply with. The EHEDG Working Group Fish Processing is convinced that this guideline will help to optimise food safety and food quality in fish processes all over the world.”