FOOD AND HEALTH ESSENTIALS

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The importance of continuing inspections in seafood production

Worldwide, the average person consumes more than 20 kilogrammes of seafood each and every year, more than double the average per-person consumption back in 19601. This dramatic increase in the average annual consumption of seafood is attributable to consumers’ quest for healthier food products, as well as the development of efficient global supply chains that can deliver fresh and frozen fish and seafood to most of the world’s population. However, the growth in global seafood consumption is matched by increased concerns about the quality and safety of seafood products. This is especially true of seafood from producers in emerging economies, where production practices may not meet the quality and hygienic standards need to ensure seafood safety. 

To help address these concerns, many seafood producers implement quality control systems based on hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) principles. When successfully applied and thoroughly monitored, HACCP-based quality systems help to identify and control food safety hazards during production processes. But not all otherwise qualified seafood producers have a verified quality control system in place. And those that do often fail to detect quality system process flaws that compromise the effectiveness of their efforts.

The limits of pre- and post-production inspections

As part of their ongoing efforts to ensure the quality and safety of seafood products from supply chain partners, many distributors, exporters and retailers often conduct pre-inspections of raw materials and/or post-production inspections on finished products. This approach to inspection can help to isolate potential quality or hygiene issues before production commences, and minimises the chance of accepting seafood products that fail to meet minimum quality and safety requirements.

Unfortunately, this limited approach to inspection can create its own set of problems and consequences. For example, when conducted too early in the process, a preliminary inspection of raw ingredients might detect quality considerations that would have been identified by the producer’s own quality system controls. In this way, a preliminary inspection can easily undermine an effective working partnership by creating a sense of distrust between the parties. 

Similarly, using post-production inspections as the only mechanism to detect quality and safety issues can result in even more potentially problematic challenges. At a minimum, a finding of quality issues during a post-production inspection can result in the disposal of some or all of a production run, with the producer incurring a significant additional expense to replace the substandard product. And the additional time required to address the underlying quality issue and to produce replacement seafood products can delay order deliveries, thereby impacting the distributor, exporter or retailer.

The benefits of inspections during production

Although pre- and post-production inspections offer several important benefits, a more comprehensive approach to production-related inspections can help provide seafood distributors, exporters and retailers with greater assurances regarding the quality and safety of the products obtained from supply chain partners. Toward this end, many seafood buyers have initiated “inspection during production” (or “DuPro”) programmes to regularly monitor quality and safety throughout the entire production process. This approach can not only reduce the frequency of quality- and safety-related issues, but can also help to identify root causes that can result in a more effective quality control programme for the supplier.

Seafood production inspection programmes organised around DuPro principles can be a particularly effective tool in a variety of circumstances, such as with new producers or with producers located in geographic areas linked to a history of quality and safety concerns. DuPro inspection programmes can also be effective in helping to address quality problems with reliable producer partners who have recently experienced quality issues. Finally, DuPro inspection programmes can help to support the adoption of seafood traceability efforts, and to deter the passage of fraudulent seafood products.

TÜV SÜD’s Initial- and During- Production Inspection process

TÜV SÜD has adopted DuPro inspection principles in its own Initial- and During-Production Inspection programme. This programme consists of two distinct production inspection processes, an initial production inspection (IPI) and a “during production inspection” (DPI). Combine with TÜV SÜD’s other seafood inspection services, such as final random inspections of production, the Initial- and During-Production Inspection programme provides buyers with increase assurance that the seafood products produced by supply chain partners meets their specific requirements regarding quality and safety.

In brief, the initial- and during-production inspection programme for seafood consists of the following activities:

  • Document review: TÜV SÜD’s inspector reviews all project document provided by the buyer, including prescribed standard operating procedures (SOPs) and any specific requirements.
  • Random sampling before and after production line check: Prior to the production line check, the inspector draws five random samples to verify product quality and any possible errors during production. This random product assessment is repeated following the completion of the production line check.
  • Cold storage conditions: The inspector then measures the temperature in at least three separate points at each cold storage location. The inspector will review general storage conditions, and identify any unorganised or unfavourable storage practices that could affect the quality of the seafood product.
  • Packing, packaging and marking: The inspector verifies all product packing, packaging and marking to ensure compliance with the buyer’s requirements.
  • Quantity and assortment check: The inspector checks the quantity and assortment for each export carton with the corresponding carton marking requirements of the buyer.
  • Product comparison: The inspector compares an actual product delivery against the buyer’s specification for marking, labelling, barcoding, etc.
  • Size and weight measurement: The inspector measures the size and weight of the product and compares the results with the buyer’s specifications. The inspector will also assess the suitability of the measuring instruments used for their intended purpose.
  • Visual and physical check: The inspector conducts a visual and physical check of the product characteristics and compares the results with the quality parameters of the buyer.
  • Production line check: The inspector then performs a production line check, evaluating the following production specifics:
    • Condition of cold storage
    • Quality control on production line
    • Work instructions
    • Hazards control
    • Processing steps
    • Overall cleanliness
    • Packaging and appearance
    • Marking and labelling
  • Sample sealing: Upon a request from the buyer, the inspector seals samples evaluated during the inspection process in such a way that the packaging will be damaged once open.
  • Photo documentation: Finally, the inspector documents with photographs each aspect of the production inspection.

Upon completing these activities, the TÜV SÜD inspector reviews the preliminary findings with the manufacturer or buyer representative. The inspector also notes any inconsistencies between actual production and the buyer’s requirements. A final inspection report is provided by the next working day following the conclusion of the inspection.

Final thoughts

In an industry increasingly dependent on complex global supply chains, successful distributors, exporters and retailers of seafood and seafood products required effective policies and procedures to help ensure the quality of their product and to reduce the risk of unsafe seafood reaching consumers. TÜV SÜD’s Initial- and During-Production Inspection programme for seafood represents a comprehensive approach to the inspection of seafood production, and offers important advantages over pre- or post-production inspections alone. Our food safety inspection activities are accredited to ISO/IEC 17020 and are independently audit, assuring clients of our compliance with the highest inspection and auditing standards. Finally, TÜV SÜD’s extensive network of expert food safety inspectors enables us to conduct food safety inspections virtually anywhere in the world.

To learn more about TÜV SÜD’s Initial- and During-Production Inspection programme for seafood, as well as our other inspection services, contact us at food@tuv-sud.com.

 

[1] “The State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2016,” a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2016. Available here (as of 23 August 2017).

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