Improved smoking technique to make exports to the EU market possible

Smoking is a traditional method of fish preservation. Today, however, European standards for products exported to the EU impose strict controls on the chemical contaminants generated by this technique. In July and August 2010, first in Togo and then in the Côte d’Ivoire, Oumoulkhairy Ndiaye carried out “training and technical assistance missions for the managers of fish smoking plants with a view to exporting their products”.

“These countries face a constant problem of substances deposited during the smoking process,” explained Mme Ndiaye, speaking at the National Fisheries Training Centre where she teaches in Dakar, Senegal. “Present fish smoking methods favour the formation of toxic particles originating in the smoke, which then comes into contact with the fish products. In particular, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocar bon (PAHs) contamination is an issue because the EU legislation sets a maximum content for benzopyrene of 5.0 μg/kg in the flesh of smoked fish.” In these countries, the Competent Authority for sanitary inspection is responsible for approving the operations of producers of fishery products that comply with European regulations. Mission reports by the Food and Veterinary Office have stressed, however, the need for these official inspections to be reinforced , especially in connection with the control of PAH residues, and to ensure that hygiene standards at establishments seeking to export smoked fish should be at least equivalent to European standards. Consequently, smoking factories do not generally qualify. The various SFP Programme training and technical assistance missions have therefore sought to tackle a number of themes: upstream hygiene conditions, good production practices for smoked fish products, and the application of risk analyses in the framework of adopting the HACCP method, including traceability and the registration system for sanitary self inspections. In addition, organoleptic criteria for smoked products were defined to meet the requirements of the African and international clientele. These missions provided the opportunity to carry out a series of tests using a prototype of an indirect smoking technique constructed on the spot. This consists of a smoke generator (a barrel with a hearth opening) that is linked to an oven by means of a metal pipe. A metal box is built into the middle of this pipe that contains a filter consisting of a fine mesh vegetal sponge. This filter is kept continuously damp in order to filter the smoke. “The lower temperature of this indirect smoking system and greater smoke control (by filtering) results in products of improved quality with lower levels of chemical contaminants,” explains Oumoulkhairy Ndiaye. “Our system uses charcoal obtained from untreated and nonresinous trees that do not come from the mangrove. This makes it possible to reduce benzopyrenes to 0.5 μg/kg, levels that are between 27 and 30 times lower than techniques using the direct and incomplete combustion of wood.” A European laboratory has validated the results of these tests. In Togo, the mission worked with the organisation Femmes Transforma trices de Poisson (FETRAPO) whose products can be found on export markets. “By grouping together with a contribution of only one euro each, these women are able to afford a system of this kind that is economic, compact and can be disassembled,” concludes the expert. For further information see the reports: IND058TGO – Training and technical support to fish smoking and curing establishments for the export of their products. Follow-up to IND022TG, And also the reports for : IND045CIV, IND048CIV and IND70CIV, all of them available in the SFP website.