By Esther Fondo
The workshop on technical guidance framework for the development of growing areas for bivalve sanitation programmes was held at the Ole Sereni Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. This was the first ever workshop that introduced the technical guidance framework for the development of growing areas for bivalve mollusk sanitation programme. The workshop presented potential hazards in live and raw consumption of bivalves and steps into the completion of a Growing Area Risk Profile (GARP). The areas covered included:
- Collection, documentation and evaluation of data and information related to the establishment of bivalve growing area.
- Identification of responsible authorities, other stakeholders and legal frameworks in programme implementation;
- Description of potential hazards associated with primary production of bivalve;
- Conducting a pathogen matrix relevant to growing areas under consideration;
- Identification of key data and information gaps and capabilities and capacity of responsible authorities and other stakeholders to support the programme;
- Document conclusion and recommendations for suitability of an area for a full growing area assessment and future bivalve production.
Sanitary requirements are crucial in bivalve production because of the need to protect consumer health and remove barriers to trade. International trade is the main driving factor for increase in bivalve production in the last 60 years. Globally, the bivalve production industry has grown from 1million tonnes in 1950 to 16.7 million tonnes in 2016.
Bivalves are traded in different forms – fresh, chilled, frozen or canned. Bivalves are filter feeders, hence they concentrate contaminant to much higher concentration than the surrounding sea water. Because they can concentrate micro-organisms and chemicals from the environment, bivalves in International trade have to meet very strict safety standards. There are three types of hazards in bivalve growing areas: microbiological, biotoxins and chemical.
To meet the requirements for consumer safety International trade, bivalve producing countries need to have their sanitary or phytosanitary measures on international standard guidelines or recommendations. Codex Code of Practice is used for bivalve but has some limitations in that it is too broad. The two major markets for bivalves are the United States of America and the European Union, and these markets have different approaches for managing bivalve safety. Countries intending to export bivalves to these markets are required to comply with both systems. Other major markets include China and Japan, and these have their own specific requirements for imports. The need to comply with different systems has constrained many countries from accessing multiple markets. In addition, countries intending to establish bivalve sanitary programmes for protection of domestic consumers are constrained by lack of clear approaches to follow.
Some bivalve producing countries saw the need for more information that was specific on how to establish and monitor bivalve growing areas. The countries determined the Codex COP does not specify the precise manner in which the classification of the bivalve growing areas is to be established and monitored. To address the limitations in the Codex COP and meet the need for more information on how to establish and monitor bivalve growing areas, a technical guidance was developed.
The Technical Guidance for the Development of Growing Areas: Aspects of Bivalve Molluscs Sanitory Programmes, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) aims to meet the needs of bivalve products and standards. A team of international experts from bivalve producing and trading regions developed it. The Workshop was organized by (FAO) and Cefas International Centre of Excellence and Centre for Environment Fisheries & Aquaculture Science. The workshop was attended by representatives from 12 African countries: Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, Gambia, Djibouti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa and Sudan. During the workshop, Member Countries identified challenges and priorities for support regarding development and enhancement of safe bivalve production.