Ocean Quality suspends staff for misuse of export docs

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The Norwegian Food Safety Authority found improper documentation had allowed salmon containing pancreas disease to ship to China

Norway-based salmon exporter, Ocean Quality, has suspended two employees after it was found that the company exported diseased fish to China, SalmonBusiness has learned.

On Jan. 31st, 2018, Ocean Quality received a letter from the Food Safety Authority ordering it stop all export of Norwegian salmon from the company to China, because the regulator had received improper documentation from the company about shipments to China. An inspection at Bremnes Seashore a few days earlier had uncovered the breach of rules.

Not for China
“Ocean Quality is aware that individual persons in the company, in violation of our internal guidelines, knowingly reused earlier declarations (of good fish health). In that way, the Food Safety Authority had issued export certificates on incorrect grounds. Ocean Quality has therefore exported salmon to China that was not certified for China,” said Oyvind Fossoy, Ocean Quality chairman, in a statement.

Read Chinese to inspect primary Norwegian processing

The salmon that was exported to China with the wrong documents had suffered from pancreas disease, or PD. Most countries, including Norway, have no restrictions on fish that have had the illness.

For now, China continues to ban fish that have had PD. Its requirement for PD-free salmon has been described as a fish-health demand and has nothing to do with food safety — the salmon is safe to eat.

Internal review
Ocean Quality said it believed the export to China of incorrectly labelled fish had gone on for an unspecified number of weeks.

“We have zero-tolerance for the improper use of documentation, and we apologize strongly for what has happened,” Fossoy stated, adding that the inspection lead to an internal investigation on how the breach of rules might have happened.

Ocean Quality is cooperating with the Food Safety Authority and the police to determine whether there’s been a breach of Norway’s food-safety laws and if the regulator was falsely informed.

“This shows that the regulatory control system works. It’s given us the opportunity to immediately clean house and improve our routines,” said Fossoy.