US seafood still safe


April Forristall, assistant editor

Published on
October 7, 2013

We’re on day seven of the U.S. federal government shut down with no end in sight.  While many would assume the shutdown would delay import inspections, it’s not necessarily the case.

When it comes to the shutdown’s effect on seafood, the initial questions surround food safety. Mainstream media outlets wasted no time questioning the food safety of the nation’s seafood supply, and announcing to consumers that their seafood would not be inspected during the shutdown.

However, somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 Food and Drug Administration inspectors are still on the job and import reviews will continue. FDA will still make admissibility decisions, including for fish. But, from a long-term perspective, there is a possibility of delays.

However, seafood is in a unique position because of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). HACCP accounts for the critical control points all along the value chain, back to origin of the product — seafood does not rely simply on one inspector waiting for the product to arrive. If it were a situation where a shipment were simply relying on individual inspectors at the port, the government shutdown would be a different scenario for seafood.

The real impact to the seafood industry lies in the fact that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is not operating, the consequences of which may not be realized for some time.

The stock assessments the Fisheries Service conducts that provide fisheries managers with information used in the protection of the nation’s fish stocks won’t be conducted.

For example, the Bristol Bay red king crab season will open as scheduled on 15 October, the season could be stalled because crabbers won’t know how much they can catch.

The real consequence for the seafood industry will lie in as-yet-to-be-seen backlash from the disruption in data collection and other problems stemming from having the lights off at NOAA.

There’s nothing that can be done but wait and see when the politicians get their act together and pass a budget. But seafood companies should be sharing with their customers that the safety of seafood is not in question.

While the motives behind the finger-pointing in Washington are suspect, Americans shouldn’t be questioning how safe their seafood is.

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