Food Quality Guidelines
A key strategy to the marketing effort has been to improve the consumer’s perception about the quality of the Columbia River salmon harvest while emphasizing food safety. Over 300 Columbia River Indian fishers have taken part in HACCP training, one of the largest fishing groups in the nation to participate in the HACCP program. This training focuses on improving the quality of the salmon from harvest to processing. Fishers have worked hard to incorporate HACCP standards into their harvesting techniques. Icing fish as soon as they leave the net, careful handling of the fish to minimize bruising, and reducing delivery time to the buyer is all essential to ensuring a fresh product to buyers.
Practicing good sanitation doesn’t happen by accident, it takes a well thought out plan that can be implemented each and every day. When the public has confidence that your fish is clean, iced, wholesome, and well taken of, everyone benefits. Some wholesale fish buyers are required through their HACCP food safety plans to have increased detail in their record keeping for purchasing fish. This can mean they need to show a record that the fish they purchase comes from fishers who also record their good sanitation practices. These sanitation plans can vary but a good example of a basic sanitary plan for selling your fish either to a wholesale buyer or direct to the public is in the Tribal Fishers Handbook. (See sidebar item to download a sanitation checklist you can print out and use.)
By incorporating the new knowledge of federal food safety into the processing of their fish, the quality of tribally harvested fish has greatly improved – a success that can be seen in the renewed willingness of commercial fish buyers to purchase tribally caught salmon. One commercial buyer of Indian-caught fish noted that fish processors are recognizing the Indian fishers’ emphasis on the quality harvesting of their catch.
This sanitation program checklist meets federal food safety regulations and buyer requirements. After you have completed the checklist each week of the season, have a HACCP trained fisher review it and sign off. It is a good idea to save these records (or copies of them) for one year. New federal food safety laws require that all foods be tracked from the supplier to the customer. For packaged fish including fresh fillets, you should give your buyers fish labeled with a date or lot code on it. For over-the-bank sales, give your customers a dated receipt.