In order to minimise incidents of rejections of Nigerian fish products abroad, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council has insisted on proper packaging for fish exports. Given that poor packaging poses a challenge to Nigerian exporters, there was a need to adopt appropriate smoking and packaging process for fish and fish products to guard against rejection in the European Union countries.
NEPC’s managing director, Mr. Segun Awolowo, stated this during a one-day sensitisation workshop on ‘Best Practices for Fish Processing’. He was represented by the Director, Product Department, NEPC, William Ezeagu.
An assistant director in the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mrs. Ikenua Ogechukwu, while presenting a paper titled ‘The Role of NAFDAC in Fish Export’, noted that the agency was interested in the health status of fishes packaged in various ways for commercial purposes, in line with its mission to safeguard public health.
“Packaging has become indispensable in today’s society. Packaging of fish has become an essential tool to preserve fish. Fish and other sea foods are extremely perishable, and are susceptible to both chemical and microbial spoilage during storage and processing. Whatever method is used in packaging fish, the effect of the concept on the final product in a microbiological and non-microbiological status of the fish is a thing of concern.
“Packaging method chosen has effect on the microbiological safety, sensorial quality, oxidative rancidity and microbiological spoilage of fish products,” Ogechukwu said.
According to her, NAFDAC in fulfilling its mandate undertakes inspection of facilities where fish products are packaged to check for good hygienic practice, and to ensure that critical control points are adequately controlled.
She said the agency also conducted laboratory testing by drawing samples which were later subjected to chemical and microbiological analyses to ensure fitness and wholesomeness.
“At Export Division, health certificates are issued upon satisfactory documentation, inspections and laboratory testing for fish and fish products. So far, export is free in NAFDAC.”
On the general guidelines for fish export to the EU, the Director, Eurofish Fishery, Aina Afanasjeva, explained that products exported to the EU must be accompanied by a health certificate.
She added that on arrival in the EU, the animal products and the accompanying certificates must be verified and checked by the EU official veterinary experts at a designated Border Inspection Post.
She also stressed that the product must have traceability, to guide in tracing and following food, feed and ingredients through all stages of production, processing and distribution.
“This is a cornerstone of the EU’s food safety policy,” she noted, adding that traceability was a risk-management tool which allows food business operators or authorities to withdraw or recall products which have been identified as unsafe.
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