Seafood HACCP course in the Great Lakes help Native American communities increase their business

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension continue to lead efforts with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in seafood processing training in the Great Lakes.

Since 1997, Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension have been working with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission to provide seafood HACCP workshops in the region. During this time, twenty-two Seafood HACCP workshops have been conducted—with most conducted on tribal reservations—training over 550 commercial fishers, processors, and aquaculturists. Participants come not only from the Great Lakes states, but also as far away as the East, West, and Gulf coast states. Participants included personnel from large food distributors and restaurants, importers/exporters of seafood, and from the aquaculture industry. Some participants have been from medical supply companies who wanted to learn more about adapting HACCP principles into their manufacturing processes for medical equipment.

Native American communities adopted the Seafood HACCP process for handling fish and fish products. Three tribes have signed memorandums of understanding with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that tribal authorities will be responsible for educating and monitoring tribal fish processors within their reservation boundaries. Many fish processors were unaware of specialized fish processing equipment such as calibrated thermometers, continuous recording thermometers, salometers, graduated cylinders, and sanitizer test tapes. The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission used funds from an FDA Partnership grant to purchase training equipment for demonstrations at the Seafood HACCP training workshops. Now, workshop participants can learn how to calibrate thermometers, use continuous recording thermometers in smoke houses, use salometers to make brines with the proper salt concentration, and develop proper sanitizing solutions. The commission has since purchased this equipment for many tribal members who attended the workshops so they can use these practices at their own facilities.

The FDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development investigators and inspectors, who visit fish processors, have indicated that most processors have adopted the record-keeping system that Michigan Sea Grant Extension developed. This record keeping system focuses on critical control point monitoring in smoked fish processing such as brining, smoking, cool down, cooler storage, and labeling. Additionally, there is record keeping for verification processes such as calibration of cooler and smokehouse thermometers. Michigan Sea Grant has developed both paper and electronic format record keeping formats to assist fish processors.

Since the first Seafood HACCP course was conducted, many new fish processing facilities have been developed in the Great Lakes region, with the goal of developing new business that offer value-added products like smoked fish, smoked fish spread, and smoked fish sausage. These values-added products provide a greater economic return to the fish processors. Affordable educational programs, like this workshop, were developed to meet specific and practical needs of fish processors in the Great Lakes region. This workshop is held in a different geographic location in Michigan each year and during a time when fish processors are least likely to experience a hardship of being away from their business during the busiest processing times.

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