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India’s Tuna Industry Invests To Improve Quality India, August 22, 12

After the problems with the salmonella outbreak in the USA caused by raw tuna processed in India, new urgent steps are being taken to upgrade the quality of tuna raw materials in India, but the local fishermen first need to be taught about basic health standards before the measures can be effective, says a tuna industry insider.
Recently at Tuticorin fishing harbor, a major seaport in Southern India, the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), the Food and Agriculture Organization and INFOFISH co-organized a workshop to teach fishermen the proper slicing technique for sashimi-grade tuna fish, which has significant export market value overseas. The workshop was titled, “Improving post-harvest practices and sustainable market development for long line fisheries for tuna and other pelagic fish species.”
Sashimi is a high-quality, Japanese delicacy that consists of thinly sliced raw meat, usually fish. Traditionally, the fish should be processed – paralyzed and bled – as soon as it is caught and then stored immediately in slurried ice to maximize its quality for raw consumption.
Tuna intended for sashimi exports must therefore be caught using pole-and-line, handline of longlining since India’s artisanal fisheries predominantly use drifting gillnets, which substantially increase the level of dangerous histamines in the fish as they can be dragged in the warm ocean water for hours before they are landed on board. The concentration of histamines in raw tuna directly increases with its rising body temperature, so the material must be stored immediately in ice to avoid this health hazard.
For this reason, MPEDA plans to outfit the fishing harbor with a new flake ice making unit and two storage units to cater to the vessels. The government agency will also be offering a complete subsidy to vessels building an ice crusher facility to store ice in their fish hold areas.
While the freshness of ice can be maintained with these initiatives, there have been past incidents of fishermen dumping the ice at sea to increase the fish holding area as their catches improve.
Western companies say the local fishermen in India have little knowledge of clean, fish-handling practices on board because they are used to selling their catches to the local market, which does not demand quality assurances. The majority lack a sense of responsibility and often, paperwork is not kept up to date.

Before investing in sashimi, the government should first focus on changing the mentality of fishermen and especially hiring experts to supervise their work, says the industry insider. He says the new measures are “useless” until the fishermen care about the food safety and health risks involved, and are motivated by the commercial benefits of delivering a high quality and hygienic product.

MPEDA will also offer 50% subsidies for refrigerated sea water systems, fish finder instruments, global positioning systems and radio signal instruments. All mechanized fishing vessels equipped with chemical septic tank toilets will also be subsidized by 50%.

During the month of July the major Indian Exporter of fresh and frozen tuna Moon Fisheries Pvt Ltd from Cochin was linked in the USA to 425 cases of salmonella poisoning of their raw tuna product, sold as sushi or nakaochi scrape. 55 persons had to be hospitalized.