Vol. 22, No. 2
Books and Publications
Publication from the World Health Organization
Food Safety Issues Associated with Products from
Aquaculture, Report of a Joint FAO/NACA/WHO Study Group, Technical
Report Series No. 883
1999, vii + 55 pages (available in English; French and Spanish in preparation),
ISBN 92-4-120883-X, CHF 14.-/USD 12.60; In developing countries: CHF
9.80, Order No. 1100883.
This report provides an expert assessment of risks to human health
that may arise from the consumption of farmed finfish and crustaceans.
Representing the consensus reached by a group of 28 international authorities,
the report responds to the urgent need for a complete inventory of all
potential risks, an evaluation of their significance and severity, and
advice on their reduction or control. The assessment takes on particular
significance in view of the growing importance of farmed fish as both
a major export commodity and a vital source of protein in low-income
Produced by WHO in collaboration with FAO and the Network of Aquaculture
Centers in Asia-Pacific, the report gives particular attention to practices
common in Asia, where 90% of global aquaculture production takes place.
Common fish farming practices, associated risks, and strategies for
their control are considered for small-scale rural subsistence farms,
as well as for intensive commercial systems.
The report opens with a review of the significance of aquaculture as
one of the fastest growing food sectors in the world and an increasingly
important source of sustainable food production. A section on global
aquaculture production and food supply describes various systems used
in fish farming, outlines current trends, and discusses the significance
of production in Asia, where aquaculture supplies both low-value staple-food
species for domestic markets and high-value cash-crop species for export.
The principles of food safety risk analysis are introduced in the next
section, which explains how risk analysis functions to identify food
safety hazards and determine their relevance for health. The use of
risk analysis in the development of food standards to protect health
and facilitate trade is also briefly explained.
Against this background, the core of the report provides a complete
assessment of all potential biological and chemical hazards. Biological
hazards are presented in the categories of parasites, bacteria, and
viruses. For parasites, major attention is given to the risk posed by
trematode parasites, especially in areas where the consumption of raw
fish is common. An evaluation of hazards associated with human pathogenic
bacteria considers bacteria naturally present in the aquatic environment
and those present as a result of contamination with human or animal
feces, giving particular attention to hazards associated with Salmonella
spp., Escherichia coli, and other enterobacteria. For viruses, the report
notes that finfish and crustaceans are not usually associated with the
spread of viral foodborne disease. Potential hazards from toxic compounds
produced by aquatic organisms are also briefly assessed.
The assessment of chemical hazards considers compounds used in the
aquaculture system itself or introduced by acute and chronic pollution
of waterways or water sources. Separate evaluations are provided for
a large number of agrochemicals, chemotherapeutics, metals, feed ingredients,
additives, contaminants, and organic pollutants. Because the risk of
infectious disease is an ever-present problem in aquaculture, the evaluation
gives particular attention to potential health effects arising from
the use of antimicrobial agents, the presence of residues in edible
fish tissue, and the possible development of antimicrobial resistance.
Strategies for controlling biological and chemical hazards are presented
in the next section, which describes the seven principles of the Hazard
Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, adapted to aquaculture.
To illustrate these principles, four critical control points (site selection,
water quality, feed supply, and fish production) in an aquaculture system
are discussed. The remaining sections point to the need for considerable
further research and set out the main recommendations and conclusions
reached during the assessment.