GHANA – Ghana in partnership with the USAID has launched a fish processors and traders certification programme aimed at enhancing safety along the value chain.

The certification initiative dubbed “Class One Recognition Scheme” seeks to ensure that fish processors and traders adopt internationally accepted requirements for safe and hygienic handling and processing of fish.

The certification scheme was designed by the ministry of Fisheries in collaboration With the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Food Research Institute and Ghana Standards Authority (GSA).

Others participants included public universities, Civil Society Organisations in the sector with funding from USAID’s Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP).

The scheme also aims at improving market access and income of fishers, serve as guidelines for the regulation and production of safe and healthy smoked fish as well as serve as a monitoring tool for compliance.

According to the GhanaWeb, currently fish traders in the country widely practice smoking and some drying processes – which poses food safety limitations including the risk of contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

The Deputy Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Mr Francis Kingsley Ato Cudjoe, urged fish processors and traders to adopt scientific fish processing and preservation methods to ensure safety.

Mr Cudjoe noted that poor product quality and unhygienic handling practices were a major concern in the local fish processing industry.

In addition, he highlighted that the illegal use of chemicals and explosives in fishing were a major contributor to poor quality fish catch and a cause of contamination that occurred through at various stages along the value-chain.

Mr Steven E. Hendrix, Deputy Mission Director of USAlD-Ghana noted that “ensuring that processors can work in a clean, hygienic environment and encouraging the use of the Ahotor ovens that reduce harmful smoke emissions will greatly benefit the health of these women, their families, and their communities.”

Mr Samuel Manu, Post-Harvest Unit of the Ministry, while giving an overview of the scheme, said that it was the first of three proposed levels of the implementation of hygienic standards in the sector.

Mr Manu said the certificates were to be renewed annually by the processors after an audit at the cost of GHȼ100 (US$18.51).

He added that the certificate could be withdrawn if there was cause to believe that the fish was exposed to risk of contamination or a misuse of the label, such as counterfeit, transfer or alteration.

During the launch of the certification scheme, 13 out of 32 fish processors and processing farms who signed up for certification were presented with certificates and labels.