Safety Plans Focus on Prevention

Seafood and juice processors come under special food safety regulations.

By Alicia Cormie

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required prevention-based food safety plans – called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP plans – for seafood-processing companies since 1997 and for juice companies since 2002.

Plans for seafood and juice focus on how to prevent contamination rather than how to respond to it, unlike other food safety regulations.

In these written plans, domestic and foreign seafood and juice processors must identify biological, chemical and physical hazards that could result in unsafe food reaching consumers. The hazards include improper temperature control and use of contaminated water.

Once risks are identified, companies must define and implement ways to minimize or eliminate the chance of contamination.

These plans are key to guiding food safety practices in seafood- and juice-processing facilities.

Seafood products, such as oysters and sushi, are often consumed raw and are more likely to make people sick.

To ease consumer concern, seafood-processing companies asked for government oversight in the form of prevention-based plans, which were implemented five years before juice.

In the decade before prevention-based safety plans were required for juice companies, juice was linked to at least 15 outbreaks in the U.S., according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children were victims in many of the outbreaks.

In 1996, apple juice contaminated with E. coli sickened 60 people in the U.S. and Canada. Half of the victims were under the age of 5, according to the CDC.

The 1996 outbreak along with others raised concerns among public health officials and consumers, prompting additional safety regulations for juice.

“Some things have definitely improved, but the one thing that has dramatically improved is the awareness of things that can go wrong and how to prevent them,” said Dr. Steve Otwell, a professor at the University of Florida’s Aquatic Food Products Program and the National Coordinator for the Seafood HACCP Alliance.

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