Who has responsibility for carrying out any required freezing treatment?
Food business operators placing fishery products on the market that are subject to the EU freezing requirements are legally responsible for applying a freezing treatment. This could be either the fish supplier or a restaurant serving the fish for example, depending on the circumstances and the point at which fishery products are marketed for raw consumption.
In some cases, it may not be known at the initial point of supply if fresh fish are intended to be consumed raw or cooked before consumption, particularly if products are exported or placed on the market via a distributor or wholesaler. This means the need to apply a freezing treatment may not be established until further down the food supply chain.
Buyers of fishery products, who intend to market a product which requires a freezing treatment, should specify the need for this to the supplier. Alternatively, the purchaser may wish to carry out the treatment themselves. It is considered that this would be in line with food safety management obligations for food businesses under Regulation (EC) 852/2004.
The provisions are intended to be flexible enough to allow the freezing process to be applied at the most appropriate point in the food chain and, notwithstanding the legal obligations outlined above; commercial agreements may be reached between suppliers and customers as to who takes responsibility for the freezing obligation. It is advised that this is done transparently with a high regard for consumer safety, and is auditable by the relevant enforcement authority.
How can it be demonstrated that a freezing treatment has been applied?
The food business applying a freezing treatment must ensure that the fishery products are accompanied by a document indicating the type of freezing process the products have undergone. Without this documentation it may not be obvious to any receiving businesses whether or not they had an obligation to apply a freezing treatment to fish they intended to market for raw consumption.
Products which are received without a document indicating the type of freezing process the products have undergone should be considered not to have been frozen until the evidence of freezing has been provided.
Will food businesses need to carry out any sampling or monitoring?
In the case of farmed salmon, Atlantic halibut and rainbow trout, no additional sampling by food businesses will be required assuming there are no changes to farming practices, and it will be sufficient for businesses to refer to the EFSA risk assessment and the FSA-funded research.
Similarly, food businesses rearing other species of farmed fish will not be expected to carry out sampling when fish are produced in accordance with the production methods set out in the answer to the question ‘Are they any approved exemptions in the UK for farmed fish?’ above.
The FSA will carry out further research where necessary to monitor parasite prevalence levels in wild and farmed fish as part of an ongoing national programme of work to ensure that verification procedures applied by food businesses remain risk-based and proportionate.