Recent news from WEFTA
Keep you informed
Position paper of the WEFTA Working Group on Fish and Fishery Products
Risks and benefits of tropical and subtropical aquatic species imported into the European Union

The WEFTA Analytical Working Group on Fish and Fishery Products cahired by Jorg Oehlenschlager has published recently a postion document entitled 'The need of identification of risks and benefits of tropical and subtropical aquatic species imported into the European Union for human consumption. The integral text of thsi document is published below.


The amount of fish and other aquatic animals imported into the EU is dramatically increasing. Airports like Frankfurt/Main in Germany or Victoria in Spain are nowadays more important for seafood import than some ports or harbours at the sea side where fish was traditionally landed. Production and harvest of warm water species is the most growing fish business in the world.

While a vast amount of knowledge is existing about aquatic animals from traditional fishing areas as the North Atlantic (e.g. shelf life, freshness and spoilage characteristics and indicators, parasites, microbiological status when caught, micro-organisms involved in spoilage, sensory assessment, contents of inorganic and organic pollutants, contents of nutritious components, contents of biogenic amines and NPN-substances, biotoxins, processing and species identification) where the food fish traditionally consumed in Europe was caught no or only minimal knowledge is existing for aquatic animals which are imported directly from the warm and tropical climates into Europe.

A thorough literature research revealed that for most of the knowledge items named above no reference could be found at all.

These animals are generally imported as round fish, to some extent also as deep frozen fillet products. The major part of the fish goes as fresh (wet) fish directly to restaurants, to caterers and to wholesalers from which the fish then is sold to multiple retailers and to retailers. The incoming fish is controlled by inspectors upon arrival by inspectors at the border of the EU for temperature, sanitation, hygiene and spoilage, a complete analysis for specific safety related components cannot be performed regularly. The Rapid Alert System of the EU gives a clear indication what is analysed and to what extent. It is, however, of utmost importance to characterise the intrinsic benefits and possible hazards in these species as complete as possible prior to importation to offer the European consumers safe and highly nutritious seafood made from the imported tropical and subtropical species.

Aquatic animals imported from areas with a climate different to the European offer a lot of unsolved problem to the scientific community. The indigenous micro-flora being present while living in their natural habitats is different from the flora in fish from the North-Atlantic waters. Further the composition of desirable and undesirable components is unknown since the countries where the fish is captured or harvested do not always have the potential to characterise the seafood as thoroughly as wished in the EU. To offer the European consumers safe and highly nutritious seafood from these areas of the world a fully characterisation of the species in question has to be performed. As a deliverable the consumer will ideally have access to a data bank and additional information material with all information necessary for him to make a buying or consumption decision when seafood from tropical and tropical areas is offered. Further recommendations for household preparation methods (cooking) should be available, which assure the European consumer to retain as much of the beneficial ingredients in his seafood as possible.

To be successful a close co-operation of scientists from different disciplines (e.g. microbiology, parasitology, chemistry, sensory assessment, technology) in an integrated approach has to be made. The results offer the consumer, authorities and others a bright chance to use these species targeted as a tool for groups which have deficiencies in intake of certain essential components and/or to give advice for certain consumer (risks) groups which of these species they have to avoid or to consume in lower amounts. Altogether this approach will contribute to safer and more beneficial use of imported seafood from tropical and sub tropical areas which lead to a better and more comfortable feeling of the European consumer towards these seafood products.

Details of research tasks to be performed:

  • Characterisation of authenticity parameters by existing validated protein- and DNA-based methods
  • Characterisation of original flora in country of origin
  • Characterisation of hygienic conditions applied in country of origin
  • Characterisation of the microbial flora when arriving in Europe
  • Characterisation of the flora during chilled storage in our climate
  • Characterisation of parasites
  • Characterisation of proximate composition
  • Characterisation of inorganic burden (mercury, tin, arsenic, cadmium and lead)
  • Characterisation of organic pollutants (organic tin, POPs and others)
  • Characterisation of spoilage parameters (biogenic amines, TVB-N, TMAO, TMA, indole in shrimps etc.
  • Characterisation of nutrient contents (PUFAs and cholesterol, selenium, zinc, iodine, calcium, vitamins, taurine and others)
  • Determination of shelf life (iced-storage experiments
  • Characterisation of biotoxins (mycotoxins, ciguatera)Characterisation of the status of farmed fish and shellfish in respect of presence of pharmaceuticals (chloramphenicol) and growth hormones
  • Characterisation of the allergic potential
  • Characterisation of presence of undesirable lipids (e.g. wax esters)
  • Detection of non permitted food additives
  • Characterisation of sensory properties
  • Consumer studies


Position paper tropical fish species