The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) found hygiene problems in 90 percent of whitefish processing operations it inspected during the 2013 season.

A total of 31 processors had serious problems; as a result, the NFSA ordered 18 to be closed, in part or in whole. "We came across a few instances where we had to act immediately because food safety was in danger," according to a statement from NFSA.

After a thorough cleaning, the companies were inspected again, and re-opened. Four companies had lots that were not allowed to be sold, and two companies were ordered to destroy lots of whitefish. Overall, NFSA's audit found deviations at 209 of Norway's 279 whitefish processing businesses.

The primary problems were a lack of cleanliness, order, and lack of internal controls. "By internal controls, we mean they don't have systems in place to clean and have good hygiene in the production," Kristina Landsverk, supervising director of the NFSA, told SeafoodSource.

"We were disappointed to see quite a few establishments [with hygiene problems]. We have some establishments from time to time; but this season, we visited many processors so we got a good overview of the industry," Landsverk said.

The likely reason that cleanliness problems were so prevalent this season – which runs from March through June – is the unusually high whitefish quota. "This year, the quota was very big. More fish were landed than normal, so there was quite a lot of stress on these establishments to handle the quota," Landsverk said.

However, Norway's whitefish processing sector is also disappointed with the audit results and is "taking this very seriously and taking measures to improve," Landsverk said.

For its part, NFSA is increasing sampling and inspections for the 2014 season. "We are moving people to areas where the industry has more establishments, increasing both the number of people working and the hours they are working. The fish is landed all night and day, so they can be at the establishments when the fish is landed," Landsverk said.

"We are looking forward to increasing the industry's standards and performance for the next season," Landsverk added.


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