December 6, 1995
Web posted at: 10:50 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In hopes of making seafood safer, the Food and Drug Administration has enacted new rules to reduce the possibility of contamination in seafood processing plants.
The plants will be required to identify places along the processing line where the fish could become contaminated and take steps to prevent that from happening. (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound)
For example, plants will have to keep records showing the fish was kept properly chilled. Processors will also have to make sure the seafood is tagged with information indicating it came from state-certified clean waters.
The new system is called HACCP, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler assures consumers it will make their seafood safer.
The fish industry, stung by press reports about tainted seafood, welcomes the new regulations. "We believe that the industry is ready to put this in place," said Lee Weddig, of the National Fisheries Institute. "The end result will be even greater assurance to the consumer that we have safe products. (It) will improve our, what we think is a good record."
Consumer groups said the new regulations are long overdue but have significant gaps. "This is a system that is based on blind faith," complained Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "The FDA is requiring companies to institute process controls, but they're not requiring that those companies ever verify that those controls actually work, with laboratory testing."
Consumer groups also complain that the new regulations do not cover fishing boats, trucks, or grocery stores and restaurants.
But restaurants such as Boston-based Legal Seafoods believe the rules will make the entire system safer. "It means that everybody in the restaurant business and in marketplaces who is buying fish, particularly from a processor, really has to buy from a processor that has been HAACP approved," said the restaurant's Roger Berkowitz.
The FDA expects to start performing inspections under the new seafood system next year. It will take two years to get the system fully running. The agency estimates it will prevent 20,000 to 60,000 seafood poisonings a year.
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