Below are a list of issues currently under discussion at Codex  and other International forums that are relevant to the Australian Seafood Industry. SafeFish welcomes any technical advice, comments or input around these issues. A comprehensive report that contains more detailed information on these issues is compiled by SafeFish every quarter, to access the most recent report please click here.

Issues under discussion at Codex

  • Histamine -Update on sampling plans and harmonisation of Histamine control guidance
  • Methylmercury -Sampling plans and maximum levels in other species
  • Ciguatoxins - Ad-Hoc FAO/WHO expert meeting on Ciguatera
  • Lead - Discussions on Maximum levels of lead in seafood


Issues under discussion at other International standard setting forums


Histamine– Update on sampling plans and harmonisation of Histamine control guidance

In July 2019, the 42nd Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC42) adopted the amendments made by the 50th Session of the Codex Commission on Food Hygiene (CCFH50) to the Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products (CXC 52-2003) to align with the recently established guidance for histamine control. The histamine control guidance will soon be published as the new Section 10 of the Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products (CXC 52-2003).

In November 2018, CCFH50 agreed to postpone the development of histamine sampling plan in the eleven commodity standards for fish and fishery products as many delegations expressed differing views. The development of sampling plans will likely be reviewed in a few years’ time when more date is available and the Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling (CCMAS) may have revised the General Guidelines on Sampling (CXG 50-2004). The implications are that:

  • The current Codex health-based safety limit for histamine of 200 mg/kg in any sample tested will remain (400 mg/kg for fish sauce).
  • The current Codex histamine decomposition (quality) limit of 100 mg/kg based on the average (mean) of sample units tested will also remain

Methylmercury–Sampling plans and maximum levels in other species

In July 2019, JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) issued a call for new data on methylmercury and total mercury in all fish species. Submitted data should cover approximately the last 12 years and must be uploaded in the GEMS (Global Environmental Monitoring System) database by November 10, 2019Interested parties are requested to contact the Secretariat to discuss the logistics/process for uploading data in GEMS.

The Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF) are establishing an electronic working group (eWG) to revise the discussion paper on the establishment of maximum levels (MLs) for methylmercury in additional fish species. The discussion paper aims to identify any additional fish species for which MLs should be established and to consider issues related to sampling plans for methylmercury in fish. SafeFish will participate in the eWG through the Australian lead delegate and findings of the paper will be considered by the 14th Session of CCCF in 2020. Species already identified as potentially having average methylmercury levels exceeding the selection criteria of 0.3 mg/kg include:

  • Snake mackerel (Escolar)
  • Cutlassfish (Scabbardfish)
  • Cusk-eel (Pink Cusk-eel, Kingklip)
  • Cardinalfish
  • Sablefish
  • Toothfish (Patagonian toothfish)
  • Anglerfish
  • Hapuku
  • Barracuda
  • Short nosed chimera (Rat fish)
  • Catfish (Channel catfish)
  • Ling (Cusk, Blue ling)
  • Orange roughy
  • Snapper (Russell’s snapper, unspecified)


This work follows Codex’s adoption of MLs for methylmercury in tunas (at 1.2 mg/kg), alfonsino (at 1.5 mg/kg), marlin (at 1.7 mg/kg) and shark (at 1.6 mg/kg) in July 2018. These MLs were established based on the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) approach. In July 2018 Codex agreed to discontinue establishing MLs for methylmercury in swordfish (as no consensus could be reached) and amberjack (low levels of total and methylmercury).

Ciguatoxins –Ad-Hoc FAO/WHO expert meeting

On 19-23 November 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) held an expert meeting to develop scientific advice in response to a request from the 11th Session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF11). In particular, the requested scientific advice to FAO/WHO entailed a full evaluation of known ciguatoxins (toxicological assessment and exposure assessment), including geographic distribution and rate of illness; congeners; methods of detection; and based on this, guidance for the development of risk management options. The FAO/WHO is aiming to release the meeting report by June 2019.

Lead - Maximum levels in Seafood

In 2010 JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) identified that there is no safe level of lead and withdrew the previous provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI). Since then Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF) have been reviewing and revising the maximum levels (MLs) for lead in the General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Food and Feed(CXS 193-1995). In March 2018 the 12th Session of CCCF reviewed and agreed to maintain the current maximum level (ML) for lead in fish at 0.3mg/kg. The FSANZ 25th Total Diet Survey that concluded that dietary exposure to lead for most Australian consumers are likely at ALARA (as low as reasonable achievable) levels. 

In 2018/19 CCCF developed a potential work program to consider establishing MLs for lead in foods not included in the General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Food and Feed (CXS 193-1995). This work program included seafood (crustaceans, molluscs and cephalopods) and processed fish (excluding frozen and sliced). A range of hypothetical MLs for lead were included in a Codex discussion paper. In May 2019, in view of workload, the 13th Session of CCCF agreed not to currently proceed with considering the establishment of MLs in seafood and processed fish.

Thailand SPS Notification - New Maximum levels for various metal contaminants

In February 2019 Thailand issued a SPS notification (THA263) that included their intention to change the MLs for cadmium, lead and methylmercury in fish and fishery products. No date has been set for the proposed adoption or enforcement.

SafeFish compared the proposed MLs to current Thailand, Codex and FSANZ MLs. Most of the proposed changes were in line with Codex MLs. SafeFish informed national, state and sector-level executive officers or representatives of the impending changes. To date, no feedback has been received.

Korea updates limits for Ethoxyquin in Aquatic products

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) of the Republic of Korea released Notice No 2019-57 stipulating new testing methods of residue limits for aquatic products, to come into effect the 3rdof July 2019. They have added the following Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for Ethoxyquin in fish and crustaceans:

Maximum amount of Ethoxyquin and Ethoxyquin dimer




In fish



In crustaceans



In comparison, the FSANZ food standards code MRL for Ethoxyquin in Schedule 20 is:

Agvet chemical: Ethoxyquin

Permitted residue: Ethoxyquin (mg/kg)

Crustaceans, Diadromous fish, Freshwater fish, and Marine fish