Processors
Fiskvinnsla í hull
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Processors are a link in the chain that stretches from the fishing vessel to the final consumer.  The good work of everyone earlier involved in the supply chain has to be continued at each stage, including through processing and distribution, in order to maintain the desired quality of the product.  Processors should to take advantage of available information and treat the raw material with respect; maintaining an unbroken chill chain, taking into account age and condition of the raw material and adapting the processing and labelling accordingly, awareness of cross contamination, good hygiene etc. are all issues that processors need to take into consideration.

  • Maintaining an unbroken chill chain is required in order to maintain freshness for as long as possible, as can be seen here and here.  Temperature in the flesh (fillet) should be kept around 0°C and fluctuations avoided.  This can present difficulties during the summer for processors that transport their fish on open lorries to their processing facilities.  They should therefore avoid keeping the fish in direct sunlight and use excessive amounts of ice.
  • Good overall handling where standards for hygiene and professional working procedures are met are immensely important.  Cross contamination needs to be avoided by ensuring good hygiene on each level of the processing, particularly when working with variable old raw material.  The freshest material should ideally by processed first; or all equipments cleaned thoroughly in-between lots.  It is therefore imperative for the processor to know the age of the raw material.
  • Traceability one step back and one step forward is a legal obligation when handling with food in the UK as well as in the EU.  Future requirements will though undoubtedly place heightened obligations on each stakeholder in the supply chain, so that they will be able provide comprehensive traceability information's on the whole value chain of the product.  It is however important for stakeholders to realise that traceability is not only a legally required nuisance; it also presents opportunities for everyone in the value chain to increase quality, provide added information, improve time- and production management etc.  Verifiability and transparency are becoming buzzwords that make it possible for forward thinking companies to exceed in marketing of their products and allow them to differentiate themselves from their competitors.  Automatic data collection is a key component for implementation of a permanent and fully-functional traceability system.  There are however still some technological obstacles in the way of implementing a fully automatic traceability system for containerised fish from Iceland, which means that most of the data collection will have to be done manually for the time being.  But there are some interesting developments on the horizon that will make various traceability informations available for automatic data collection and sharing.
  • Labelling of fish for retail in the UK is required to include information on species name, production method (wild caught or aquaculture) and in which FAO area the fish was caught.  These regulations do however not apply to the foodservice sector or market stalls.  It does also not apply to “further processed, preserved, treated or cooked fish” where other ingredients have been added such that the fish becomes an intrinsic part of the end product (i.e. coated/battered/breaded fish products, recipe dishes/fish ready meals).  Producers though often chose to add some additional information on the packaging, which are not legally obligated; such as expiration date, nutritional value, catch method, precise catch area, vessel name, date of capture, sustainability of the fishery, carbon footprint of the product etc.
  • Information needs to flow through the supply chain in both directions in order to benefit as many as possible.  Receiving reliable forward information is of paramount importance for processors, so that they can plan their sourcing and production throughput as accurately as possible.  Forward information can also present opportunities for suppliers that are consistently supplying top quality fish, as there are already few vessels that have built a reputation for good quality.  Numerous processors are buying fish remotely without inspecting it first, which means that they have to rely on the vessels reputation and other available information.  Increased availability of forward information can further allow these vessels to differentiate themselves on the market and help the others to improve.  It can be equally important for suppliers to receive feedback from the agent, the auction markets or the processors, on the quality of their supplies, making it possible to identify problems, initiate improvements or further confirming their working procedures.
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