Hazards and their control in Seafood Processing Industry

The variety and species of aquatic organisms used as food are too many. Thus, seafood processing refers to the processes associated with fish and fish products between the time fish are caught or harvested, and the time the final product is delivered to the customer.

By virtue of their genetic makeup or food habits, some of these organisms are found to contain some toxic substances. Thus ciguatoxin, paralytic shellfish poison (saxitoxin), diarrhetic shellfish poison (okadaic acid), amnesic shellfish poison, etc. are species related toxins, which are health hazards encountered in seafood

 Similarly, scombroid or more generally fishes with red meat and on temperature abuse produce histamine and cause the commonly reported scombroid toxin poisoning

Following are the major Hazards in the seafood industry.

Physical Hazards:

Physical hazards are environmental factors that can harm an employee without necessarily touching them, including heights, noise, radiation, and pressure.






Unloading Docks

·       Load Hitting a Person by falling

·       Slipping, sliding or physical strain

Use proper lifting techniques


Storage in Freezers

Boxes stacked too high or are not secured

Install tracking systems to keep containers stable and do not keep it too high

The temperature in the freezer and cold storage rooms-Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can affect workers’ coordination and reaction times

·       Wear cold weather clothing

·       Take scheduled breaks to maintain your internal body temperature.


Plant Maintenance and Repairs

Working from heights using a variety of equipment – ladders, lifts, and scaffolding – to carry out maintenance and repairs

When working from high heights (greater than 3 meters), use scaffolding or a fall protection harness

Working on equipment while the plant is in operation

If possible, remove equipment from the work area to carry out repairs.


Processing Line

Slippery floors

Wear footwear with good grips

Hot water and cookers

Vent steam away from workers


Packaging and Labelling

Strapping and stapling machines-can cause hand injuries

Keep hands clear of the moving parts of the equipment. And Wear properly fitted clothing to avoid getting caught in the machinery

Biological Hazard:

Biological safety hazards commonly found in seafood include bacterial pathogens, viral pathogens, and parasites.





Control measures


Bacterial Pathogens:


Bacillus cereus

Improper refrigeration

Food poisoning

destruction by a heat process and temperature control to prevent spore germination and multiplication of vegetative cells in cooked, ready-to-eat foods


Campylobacter jejuni

Cross-contamination of foods by dirty food-contact surfaces

diarrheal illness in humans

 thoroughly cooking seafood and by stressing the importance of proper (and frequent) hand and equipment washing and sanitary food-handling practices


Clostridium botulinum


Botulinum toxins block nerve functions and can lead to respiratory and muscular paralysis

·       Heavy salting or drying to reduce the water activity below 0.93

·       fermentation or acidification to below pH 4.6 are effective means of preventing C. botulinum growth


Viral Pathogens:


Hepatitis A Virus

Viruses survive better at low temperatures; most outbreaks of hepatitis occur during winter and early spring

·       fever, jaundice, and abdominal pain

·       thoroughly cooking seafood

·       by preventing cross-contamination of cooked seafood.


Norwalk Virus

associated with eating clams (raw and steamed), oysters

a major cause of nonbacterial intestinal illness (gastroenteritis)causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and occasionally fever in humans.

prevented by thoroughly cooking seafood and by preventing cross-contamination of cooked seafood.





Anisakis simplex commonly called herring worm

 associated with eating raw fish (sushi, sashimi, lomi lomi, ceviche, sunomono, Dutch green herring, marinated fish, and cold-smoked fish) or undercooked fish

Anisakiasis is a parasitic disease caused by anisakis nematodes that can invade the stomach or intestine of humans

. Freezing and storing at -4ºF (-20ºC) or below for 7 days (total time)



Pseudoterranova decipiens commonly called “cod worm” or “seal worm,”

through raw or undercooked fish

These nematodes are related to Anisakis simplex and the disease associated with infections is also termed anisakiasis

 freezing at -31ºF (-35ºC) or below for 15 hour

Chemical Hazards

Hazardous chemicals are substances that can cause adverse health effects such as poisoning, breathing problems, skin rashes, allergic reactions, allergic sensitization, cancer, and other health problems from exposure



Animal/Organ Involved




 Naturally occurring chemical:


Scombroid Toxin (Histamine in Fish)

Tunas, bonitos, mackerels, bluefish, dolphin (Maki mahi), carangids, herring, sardine, and anchovies

facial flushing, urticaria, oedema, and gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Neurological symptoms like headache, tingling, burning sensation in the mouth, etc., are also common.

Low-temperature storage or holding fish at 0°C at all times is the most effective preventive measure


Tetrodotoxin (Pufferfish poison)- probably the most lethal of all fish poisons.

In the liver, ovaries, and intestine in various species of pufferfish, octopus, and two Japanese shellfishes.

neurological symptoms that develop 10-45 minutes after ingestion, paralysis, respiratory problems, and cardiovascular collapse

Avoid eating it.

Eat only when it is properly processed.


Ciguatera poisoning

Ingestion of fish that have become toxic by feeding on toxic dinoflagellates

Fish species such as red snapper (Lutjanus bohar), grouper ( Variola louti), and moray eel have been recorded as ciguateric

nausea and neurological deficits

Do not eat the fish’s liver, intestines, eggs, or head because they have the highest concentration of toxins.


Unintentionally or incidentally added chemicals







Toxic metals

Toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury, arsenic, selenium, lead, etc. above the normal level impair the quality

Increasing amounts of chemicals may be found in predatory species because of biomagnification

Increased environmental monitoring should be introduced. Depuration of molluscs will remove some of the contaminants


 Intentionally added chemicals and Food Additives




Max limit



Semi preserved fish products including fish products

 Salted, dried fish Shrimps, cooked Crangon

Sorbates and Benzoates

2000 mg/kg

 200 mg/kg

2000 mg/kg

6000 mg/kg

Source Control i.e. specifications of raw materials, ingredients, and vendor certification.

 • Process Control i.e. formulation 


Certain chemical substances and biological agents incorporated into feed, either intentionally or unintentionally, can result in hazards in food of animal origin and may enter feed at any stage of production up to the point of feeding. Regulatory programs should be established which ensure that foods of animal origin produced for human consumption are both safe and wholesome.

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