Developments in the global trade of food have exposed primary producers to a new set of opportunities and risks that are best managed with risk assessment. Estimating ‘equivalence’ is now the process used to determine whether or not Australian products can penetrate foreign markets, and whether or not products produced abroad can penetrate Australian markets. This involves an appraisal of whether the imported product presents the same or lesser magnitude of human-health risk as posed by the domestic product. Under the guidelines produced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the assessment of equivalence demands the conduct of a food safety risk assessment by the importing country. A country can deny the entry of a product if it fails to meet the equivalence standard. Thus exporting nations require a pool of scientific expertise to conduct their own risk assessments and also to appraise the appropriateness of those produced by their trading partners.
At the domestic level, state food safety legislation and food standards are increasingly based on the risk assessment approach. It is timely, therefore, for industry to (develop and) validate an integrated supply chain approach to food safety that has international standing as a basis for meeting public health and trade access requirements.
This project will provide an objective, transparent and scientifically robust basis for the management of food borne hazards and shelf life in the prawn industry. We propose to conform to the internationally accepted approach for the conduct of food safety risk assessment that is promulgated by CODEX, FAO and WHO (Anon., 2002).
This is an opportunity to work at all levels of the supply chain to ensure the safe reputation that SGWCPFA prawns enjoy is confirmed and maintained by validated quality systems. While the project develops and pre-tests a framework to validate the production of cooked prawns produced under the APPA Code it will provide industry with applied recommendations on the value of routine microbiological monitoring to support other audit verification processes.
The principal objective of the project was to develop and pre-test a “water-to-waiter” approach/framework to evaluate the processing performance and resulting product criteria (compliance with food standards and market shelf-life requirements) of the Spencer Gulf West Coast Prawn Fishermen’s Association (SGWCPFA).
Participating boats were selected at random to obtain a cross-sectional profile of the fleet. Samples were comprised of composites collected across processing periods. Background information on boat hygiene procedures and dipping or cooking/cooling procedures were obtained for all participants. All samples were tested according to the Australian Standards at a NATA accredited laboratory (IMVS Food and Environmental Laboratory).
The project has provided a baseline of industry hygiene, processing and product performance. For the SGWCPFA in particular, a set of strategies that may enhance product safety and shelf-life has been established. For the crustacea industries in general, the project provides principles and a framework to guide the evaluation of processes and product across the supply continuum.
Keywords: Prawns, cooked prawns, food safety, quality assurance, microbiological analysis, Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio, coliforms, sodium metabisulphite