Here is an interesting question as the seafood world centers its activities on Brussels for the Seafood Expo Global — also known to those that have been coming here for years as the European Seafood Exposition. It is all about whether we should drive fisheries and aquaculture together as seafood or treat them as separate items.

It is clear to me that aquaculture would be the winner if they were treated separately, but wild product would not necessarily be the loser.

The issue cropped up on what I call the Seafood HACCP Alliance Seafood Listserve last week (it’s great for those that take an interest in food safety issues) when there was a question regarding Ciguatera and their toxins.

Ciguatera is a complicated issue and something that you would hope not to experience during your life. The consequences can be dire but generally people live through the issue and have to be wary for the rest of their lives. Is it worth the risk? If you only eat aquaculture products you would not have the issue.

I decided to be brave and made a comment on the listserve — “This makes you wonder why we do not isolate aquaculture species from wild harvest species:

•    Aquaculture species do not have the same issues as wild species (EG - mercury, etc)

•    Wild species do not have the same issues as aquaculture (EG -antibiotics, etc)
Whereas with seafood — they are all getting put in the one basket.”

This received an immediate response — “You just hit the jackpot with your observation. In my opinion, in order to develop a HACCP program with ‘sense’ you must be knowledgeable of the hazards and their risks…quite a simple concept. Not everyone, actually few people, has the knowledge and experience required to develop a HACCP program identifying the hazards and their risks.”

Last night I was reviewing the Seafood HACCP Alliance’s Seafood HACCP Training presentation and there is a slide with the following statement: “It is recommended that experts who are knowledgeable in the food process should either participate in or verify the completeness of the hazard analysis and the HACCP plan.”

How many people/organizations are doing that?

You know you have hit on something when the food safety legend Peter Howgate, many years retired but still has his excellent regular input and say on the listserve, comes to life with these comments:

•    Roy Palmer raised the interesting point that HACCP plans should perhaps differentiate between farmed and wild-caught specimens of the same species, (I paraphrase), and the topic of mercury in farmed fish in particular has been mentioned. Now that more than half the fishery products consumed for human food, on a worldwide basis, are currently derived from aquaculture, it seems to me that HACCP plans for fishery products should, for some products anyway, bear in mind the raw material could have originated from aquaculture and the hazard and risk profiles should be modified accordingly.

•    Hazards originating during post-harvest handling and processing would be the same for both aquaculture and wild-caught material, but the intrinsic hazards, that is, those existing in the fish at the time of harvesting and capture, might not be. Some intrinsic hazards are peculiar to aquaculture being related to the production process, the prime example being veterinarian drugs and other therapeutic agents. Their use is usually governed by regulations which typically will prescribe there use and the withdrawal period between use of a therapeutic agent and the release of the fish for sale.

Peter went on with some detail and quite a number of people commented including my good friend, food safety guru with a southern accent, Steve Otwell. Steve simply highlighted that “Methyl-Hg is not an issue with aquaculture seafood due to feeding regimes and duration of growth.” Here endeth that lesson.

I have always been a believer in seafood where we deal with both harvesting techniques under the one banner but I am beginning to change.
I think if we actually sat down and thought this through both sides would be better off by being treated separately.

What do you think?