CURRENT ISSUES RELEVANT TO THE AUSTRALIAN SEAFOOD INDUSTRY

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.

Issues under discussion at Codex

  • Methylmercury - Sampling plans and maximum levels in other species
  • Canned Sardines - Proposal to include Sardinella lemuru in list of approved species
  • Calanus oil - Inclusion in fish oil standard
  • Dflubenzuron - Proposed Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) in Salmon
  • Extrapoloation of MRLs for Vet Drugs in Finfish
  • Ciguatoxins

 

Issues under discussion at other International standard setting forums

  • FAO - Climate change - Current and anticipated food safety issues
  • WHO - Accessing Health Risk of Microplastics

Methylmercury–Sampling plans and maximum levels in other species

In May 2019, the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF) agreed to re-establish an Electronic Working Group (EWG) to revise the discussion paper on proceeding with the establishment of maximum levels (MLs) for methyl-mercury in additional fish species and to develop sampling plans. Throughout the development of this work, SafeFish assisted in the upload of Australian methyl-mercury and total mercury data to the GEMS/Food database, and prepared formal technical submissions providing comments on the discussion papers produced by the EWG to Codex Australia in September and February 2020, and March 2021. SafeFish has also continued to advocate that prior to any MLs being established the contaminant needs to be present in amounts that are significant for total exposure and that sampling plans, if developed, should be practical and feasible whilst ensuring food safety using a risk-benefit based approach.

In May 2021, the CCCF14 committee agreed to progress establishing MLs for methyl-mercury in Orange Roughy and Pink Cusk-eel and to request that JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) issue a call for more data specific for Patagonian Toothfish. The Committee agreed to discontinue the development of MLs for methyl-mercury in all other additional fish species. The Committee will also continue to progress sampling plans for methyl-mercury to ensure their practicality and a literature review will be undertaken to consider the possibility of developing a new guidance document for risk management of methyl-mercury in fish. The FAO/WHO will also be convening an expert meeting to update the risk/benefit of fish consumption and as part of this would consider if there is sufficient evidence to support how selenium-mercury complexes impact toxicity.

 

Canned Sardines - Proposal to include Sardinella lemuru in list of approved species

In 2020 the Codex Alimentarius Commission proposed to evaluate if the Standard for Canned Sardines and Sardine-Type Products (CXS 94-1981) could be amended to include the fish species S. lemuru (Balie Sardinella) in the list of Sardinella species. Codex Committee on Fish and Fishery Products (CCFFP) will be reactivated to work by correspondence to determine this.

 

Inclusion of Calanus oil in fish oil standard

A proposal for Calanus oil (derived from Calanus finmarchicus) to be listed as a named fish oil in Codex Standard for Fish oil (CXS 329-2017) is under consideration by the Codex Committee on Fats and Oils. The main lipid class in Calanus oil is wax ester. The proposal to include Calanus oil as a named fish oil will reduce trade impediments and help governments in assessing the quality and the barriers and/or rejection of the product at the trade borders, and help manufacturers and traders documenting product authenticity and traceability. It is anticipated that the proposal could be adopted in 2025.

More information on the proposal is available by contacting the SafeFish Secretariat at info@safefish.com.au. Comments due by 20 August 2021

Diflubenzuron MRL in salmon

In July 2021, the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods (CCRVDF) agreed to forward the proposed maximum residue limit (MRL) for diflubenzuron in salmon of 10μg/kg in muscle plus skin in natural proportions for adoption by Codex Alimentarius Commission later this year. This proposed MRL follows a recent JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) recommendation. FSANZ currently has a temporary MRL for diflubenzuron in fish muscle of 2µg/kg.

Extrapolation of MRLs for Veterinary Drugs in Finfish

The Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods (CCRVDF) are considering if maximum residue limits (MRLs) for veterinary drugs can be extrapolated to one or more species and to establish the approach and criteria for extrapolation. The approach for extrapolation was agreed by the CCRVDF Committee and is awaiting adoption by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Proposed extrapolations under consideration by CCRVDF include: 

  • a MRL of 30µg/kg of deltamethrin (an insecticide) in muscle of salmon to muscle of all finfish
  • a MRL of 500µg/kg of flumequine (an antibiotic) in muscle of trout to muscle of all finfish
  • A MRL of 400µg/kg of teflubenzuron (an insecticide) in salmon (muscle or fillet), could not be extrapolated.

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. Click here to access the report. 

The Expert Meeting concluded that there are many gaps in the available information about ciguatera poisoning and there are some needs that require urgent attention regarding both risk management and research. “The main needs for risk management were the definition of clear protocols to avoid the risk of consuming toxic seafood, mainly by local people and tourists, but also consumers purchasing imported seafood from certain areas. This included a well-defined information and outreach programme, and a clear identification of the geographic distribution of fisheries resources and causative organisms, as well as CTXs presence and concentration in different tissues and anatomic parts of the affected fisheries resources. The main research needs referred to detection methods, and the need to have a stable supply programme of analytical standards.” In May 2021 the CCCF Committee agreed to issue a circular letter requesting comments on possible follow-up actions for consideration at the next CCCF meeting.

FAO - Climate change: current and anticipated food safety issues

In April 2020 FAO released a report titled “Climate change: Unpacking the burden on food safety”.  The purpose of the report was to identify and attempt to quantify some current and anticipated food safety issues that are associated with climate change. The food safety hazards considered in the publication are foodborne pathogens and parasites, harmful algal blooms, pesticides, mycotoxins and heavy metals with emphasis on methylmercury. There is also a section on the benefits of forward-looking approaches such as horizon scanning and foresight, that include microplastics and novel food production systems. The report is available from http://www.fao.org/documents/card/es/c/ca8185en/

WHO - Assessing Health Risk of Microplastics

Working with a group of international experts WHO aims to assess human health risks arising from exposure to microplastic particles from the environment (including exposure via food, water and air), identify research needs and define the scope of the future work of WHO on microplastic particles. Report to be published later in 2021.