remaining processors urged to obtain training to meet new federal requirements
September 22, 1997
FAIRBANKS, Alaska--Alaska seafood educators are among those across the nation who will receive a Vice Presidential award for their efforts to help industry meet new federal safety standards. But they say only about half of Alaska's seafood processors will be able to comply when the standards take effect in December.
"I think it's fair to say that there are still a good many processors whose employees have not yet received the needed training," said Don Kramer, chair of the University of Alaska's Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program in Anchorage. "We're here to help them get that training."
More than 50 percent of the nation's seafood harvest comes from waters off Alaska. Last year, catches of pollock, salmon, crab and other seafood totaled more than $2 billion. While dozens of seafood processors have yet to receive training, companies that account for the largest share of seafood processed in the state have been certified to meet the new standards.
"There are a dozen or so companies that process 80 to 85 percent of the seafood in the state," said Kevin O'Sullivan, technical program director with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. "I know that they all have trained people. I'd say the industry is well on its way to complying come December."
The new standards are the result of four years of research on ways to improve the safety of the nation's seafood. Called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), the standards require seafood processors to have trained safety-assurance personnel and have a processing plan that spells out how seafood is to be handled in order to meet stringent new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. Sea Grant's Don Kramer was among those who served on a national committee that developed education and training materials designed to help industry comply with the HACCP standards.
On September 22, Kramer and others with the National Sea Grant College Program, the Association of Food and Drug Officials, and the FDA will be recognized with the "Hammer" award given by Vice President Al Gore. The award recognizes the government agencies' efforts to help industry comply with government regulations. The award consists of a hammer, ribbon and card from Vice President Gore.
In Alaska, the state's Sea Grant Program teamed with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to bring the award-winning training program to more than 22 fishing communities from Kake to Dutch Harbor. More than 500 seafood workers, state inspectors and plant supervisors have been trained in everything from sanitary practices and proper cold storage techniques to writing a HACCP plan.
"It's been tremendously successful," said ASMI's Kevin O'Sullivan. "The results will mean continued safe, top-quality seafood from Alaska."
But of the 750 licensed seafood processing companies in Alaska, only about half have thus far received training to meet the new guidelines, according to Manny Soares, the state's chief seafood inspector with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. He said most of those companies are small companies that don't process a lot of seafood.
"There will be many processors who waited too long and will find themselves floundering," said Soares. "We'll be scrambling to help them catch up."
Although the training itself is not mandatory, meeting the FDA guidelines on one's own would be difficult, said Don Kramer of the University of Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program. Workshops offered by ASMI and Sea Grant last three days and cost $120.00 per person.
Federal law sets a December 18, 1997, deadline for HACCP to be in use by all processors engaged in interstate seafood commerce. At that point, the local, state and federal agencies which monitor seafood safety will begin checking for HACCP compliance. By contrast, HACCP plans for the beef and poultry industries are to be phased in by the year 2000.
To help remaining processors meet the December deadline, nine more training workshops are planned. To find out if you are required to meet the new FDA seafood regulations, contact Manny Soares at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, 907-269-7500. For a schedule of classes, call Don Kramer at the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, 907-274-9691; or visit the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program on the worldwide web at http://www.uaf.edu/map/haccp.html
Chuck Crapo, seafood quality specialist, Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, 907-486-1500
Ron Dearborn, president, Sea Grant Association, 907-474-7086
Manny Soares, seafood inspector, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, 907-269-7500
The HACCP Alaska workshop schedule can be found at http://www.uaf.edu/map/haccp.html, or call 907-274-9691 for more information.
The Alaska Sea Grant College Program is a marine research, education and outreach service headquartered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. It is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the state of Alaska and private industry.
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