Expert Group discusses proposed amendments to Regulation 853/2004: fish holds, meltwater drainage etc.

Published by SIPA

Some possible amendments to Regulation 853/2004 were discussed by the Expert group on food hygiene and control of food of animal origin on 11 December 2019 I don’t think we had seen the proposed wording before.

They concern provisions to eliminate the dual use of fish holds, clearer rules concerning freezer vessels to eliminate abuse of the –9°C exception, requirements for reefer vessels, and a requirement for meltwater drainage. There is a possible re-wording of ‘temperature of melting ice’ as regards fish livers and roes. The detail is in this discussion paper:

I have copied and pasted the relevant section (page 4 onwards) below:

Possible amendment


Possible amendment of Section VIII Chapter I

Point I (A)1 is proposed:


Vessels must be designed and constructed so as not to cause contamination of the products with bilge-water, sewage, smoke, fuel, oil, grease or other objectionable substances. Holds and/or containers used for fishery products shall not be used for other purposes than the production and or storage of foodstuffs.

In 2014 DG SANTE detected during fishery products audits to third countries that FBOs of purse seiner freezer vessels were using fish holds to temporarily store fuel and later, after cleaning, to use those holds to freeze and store frozen fishery products. This practice is not acceptable and is contrary to the principles of the food law. The proposed text aims to clarify the legislation and to give a clear line on the practices allowed in food producing facilities.

Point I(C)1

Freezer vessels must:

1. have freezing equipment with sufficient capacity to lower the temperature rapidly, and continuously, so as to achieve a core temperature of not more than -18 °C;

In the course of several audits DG SANTE detected a practice that takes advantage of unclear legal provisions. While some FBOs were freezing products in brine to temperatures above the applicable regulatory limit (-9 °C), and later transferring them to storage rooms to proceed with the cooling down of the products (both with forced air or static freezing), other FBOs would freeze the products directly with a blast freezer (compliant with the EU rules). This is an unfair practice and allows the vitiation of the exception rule of Reg. 853/2004 concerning the freezing temperature of products solely destined for canning. Moreover, the interruption of the freezing process would allow rises in temperature that could have an impact of the food safety of the products.

Other cases have been observed in establishments on land that freeze fishery products in tunnels (blast freezers) or plate freezers to temperatures above the regulatory -18 °C and then transfer those products to a cold storage room to continue the cooling of the products until stabilization at -18 °C.

The new wording of the legislation would clarify the situation and will make these practices illegal.

Point I(C)2

2. have refrigeration equipment with sufficient capacity to maintain fishery products in the storage holds at not more than -18 °C. Storage holds shall not be used for freezing unless they respect the conditions of point 1, and must be equipped with a temperature-recording device in a place where it can be easily read. The temperature sensor of the reader must be situated in the area where the temperature in the hold is the highest a place determined by a study which will ensure that products have always, in all their parts, a temperature of not more than -18 °C;


This modification covers two major point seen in recent and past audits:

The freezing of products in storage facilities using a cold storage room to freeze, slowly, fishery products to a temperature of -18 °C. Other cases have been observed, as described above, where cold storage rooms are used to “finish” the freezing process.

The second point is in relation to the location of the probe. The main focus should be the temperature of the product and not the temperature or location of the probe. To maintain the current drafted text we propose to make clear that the temperature measured by the probe needs to be a suitable surrogate for the temperature of the products, in order to guarantee that all products have in all their parts not more than -18 °C.

New point E

E. Requirements for reefer vessels (in bulk)

1. Reefer vessels transporting and/or storing fishery products in bulk must have equipment meeting the requirements for freezer vessels laid down in part C, point 2.



Reefer vessels need to be approved and controlled by the competent authorities. However, the legislation does not define the applicable requirements. In practice, we apply the relevant requirements applicable to freezer vessels and Art. 5 of Reg. (EC) No 852/2004. So, this addition will make clear which equipment requirements those vessels need to respect.



6. Where fish are headed and/or gutted on board, such operations must be carried out hygienically as soon as possible after capture, and the products must be washed immediately and thoroughly. In that event, the viscera and parts that may constitute a danger to public health must be removed as soon as possible and kept apart from products intended for human consumption. Livers and roes intended for human consumption must be preserved under ice, at a temperature approaching that of melting ice as close as possible to 0°C, or be frozen.


Over and over there is a debate of the meaning of “temperature approaching that of melting ice”. The Codex guide, Code of Practice for fish and Fishery Products – CAC/RCP 52-2003, 2016 version, is fully aligned with the EU nomenclature, they also refer in page 30, point 4.1 that fresh fishery products are to be chilled at a temperature as close as possible to 0 °C. We consider that adding the proposed text will bring a tangible and auditable requirement

Chapter III point A(4)


4. Containers used for the dispatch or storage of unpackaged prepared fresh fishery products stored under ice must ensure that melt water is drained out and does not remain in contact with any products.


This new wording would have the benefit to clarify to all MS what is the intention of this legal provision – to avoid that fishery products are kept in a microbiological broth and that contamination is not passed from box to box.


Establishments on land that freeze and store frozen fishery products must have equipment that satisfies the requirements laid down for freezer vessels in Section VIII, Chapter I, part I. C, points 1 and 2.



The modification covers the need for cold stores on land to be equipped with temperature recording devices.

This will be an opportunity to make clear a legal requirement that is widely followed by the FBOs.

Section VII, Chapter V:


In addition to ensuring compliance with microbiological criteria adopted in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 852/2004, food business operators must ensure that live bivalve molluscs placed on the market for human consumption meet the standards laid down in this Chapter.

1. They must have organoleptic characteristics associated with freshness and viability, including shells free of dirt, an adequate response to percussion and normal amounts of intravalvular liquid.

2. They must not contain marine biotoxins in total quantities (measured in the whole body or any part edible separately) that exceed the following limits:

(a) for paralytic shellfish poison (PSP), 800 micrograms per kilogram;

(b) for amnesic shellfish poison (ASP), 20 milligrams of domoic acid per kilogram;

(c) for okadaic acid, and dinophysistoxins pectenotoxins together, 160 micrograms of okadaic acid equivalents per kilogram;

(d) for yessotoxins, 3,75 milligrams of yessotoxin equivalent per kilogram;


(e) for azaspiracids, 160 micrograms of azaspiracid equivalents per kilogram

As requested during the discussion with the MS on Repealing of Regulation 854/2004


No responses