Seafood Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Consumption of seafood has increased over the last decade, without a concomitant increase in reported illness. This increased consumption trend is expected to continue both for prepared and for fresh or frozen varieties. The 1989 consumption figure was 15.9 pounds of edible meat per person per year. Total commercial landings were a record 8.5 billion pounds in 1989, and imported edible products totaled 3.2 billion pounds. The majority of the seafood supply was harvested from wild populations. The aquaculture portion of this supply will probably increase. A substantial amount of seafood (600 million pounds of finfish and 300 million pounds of shellfish) is caught recreationally. About 70% of commercially produced seafood in the United States is sold fresh or frozen. Canned seafood constitutes approximately 25%, and smoked/cured products 5%, of the seafood consumed. The United States exported 1.4 billion pounds of edible domestic fishery products in 1989. The largest importer was Japan; Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and South Korea also provided good markets. The seafood harvest by industry is fragmented, diversified, seasonal, complex, and difficult to manage. Studies are needed to monitor changing consumption trends and patterns. The processing, distribution and merchandising of finfish and shellfish will require more emphasis to reduce cross-contamination. Attention must be given to aquaculture in order to produce high-quality, consistently available species. Attention must also be focused on the harvesting, handling, distribution, and preparation of recreationally harvested fish to ensure consumer safety. More emphasis should be placed on educating the industry and the consumer about safe handling practices that can reduce potential food-handling problems.
As Americans become increasingly aware of the relation between diet and good health, the consumption of fishery products will most likely increase. The consumer recognizes that fish and shellfish are nutritious and wholesome foods. They are perceived as an excellent source of high-quality protein, containing lipids with high levels of unsaturated fatty acids, and perhaps contributing to the enhancement of human health by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Likewise, seafood is characteristically tender, easily digested, and a good source of many important minerals
and vitamins (NRC, 1989).
Although the attributes of seafood attract a more health conscious consumer, they also enforce expectations for enhanced safety. Consumer consciousness of seafood safety issues has become, as a result, increasingly important. Pollution and environmental issues have further focused people's attention on contamination problems. Concurrent media coverage and public interest groups have heightened the demand for rigorous safety standards in the food industry (Haas et al., 1986; Newton, 1989).
Unlike meat and poultry, which are derived from domesticated sources, the majority of the edible seafood supply in the United States, approximately 12.0 billion pounds including domestic landings and imports in round weight equivalents, was harvested from wild populations in 1989 (NMFS, 1990). The aquacultured portion of this supply is predicted to increase from both foreign and domestic sources (Redmayne, 1989), and recorded commercial landings are further supplemented by a growing portion of recreationally caught seafood destined for consumption.
Because the supplies of many seafoods are relatively small and regional, large numbers of individuals, using a variety of vessels that range from small boats to large factory ships, are involved. The seafood harvesting industry is highly fragmented. The diversity of the industry, the seasonal nature of fishing, the complexity of fish processing operations, and the substantial amount of seafood caught recreationally (600 million pounds of finfish and 300 million pounds of shellfish) make it difficult to manage and regulate these living resources (NOAA, 1990).
Both finfish and shellfish are subjected to contamination and cross-contamination in their natural habitat, as well as at any point during handling, processing, distribution, or preparation (Haas et al., 1986; Newton, 1989; NOAA, 1990). Seafood-borne illness has been reported due to natural toxins, microbial contamination, parasites, poor seafood handling, and chemical contaminants (CDC, 1981a-c, 1983a,b, 1984, 1985, 1989; FDA, 1989). Because of the primary reliance on limited data-reporting systems via state departments of public health, and eventually the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the extent of the public health risk due to cumulative exposure to microorganisms, natural toxins, and chemical contaminants cannot be assessed easily, especially in the context of total dietary exposure. Given this qualification, current data indicate a decrease in the reported incidents of illness from seafood relative to consumption.
The committee has critically examined and evaluated the degree of severity of illnesses, their significance, and the extent of possible health risks involved. Its findings are documented in subsequent chapters of this report.
DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE SEAFOOD INDUSTRY
In 1989, commercial and recreational fishermen harvested more than 8.5 billion pounds of fish and shellfish from U.S. waters, which includes edible and industrial products. More than 300 major species of seafood were marketed, reflecting the diversity of the resource base (NMFS, 1990). Over 4,000 processing and distribution plants handled the commercial products of the nation's 256,000 fishermen. Almost 95,000 boats and vessels constituted the fleet (NMFS, 1990).
Although commercial establishments are easily documented, the number of
recreational fishermen and their support base are more difficult to quantify. Increasing numbers of anglers for fish from the nation's freshwater, estuarine, and marine waters are producing a growing share of the fresh and frozen seafood in today's diet. The number of recreational harvesters has been estimated to be in excess of 17 million individuals (NOAA, 1990).
Fresh and frozen seafood constitute about 70% of the product consumed in the United States. Canned seafood, particularly tuna, constitutes almost 25% of domestic consumption, and cured/smoked products account for the remaining 5% of per capita consumption.
Commercial landings (edible and industrial) by U.S. fishermen at ports in all the fishing states were a record 8.5 billion pounds (3.8 million metric tons) valued at $3.2 billion in 1989 (NMFS, 1990). This was an increase of 1.3 billion pounds (576,300 metric tons) in quantity, but a decrease of $281.8 million in value, compared with 1988. The total import value of edible fishery products was $5.5 billion in 1989, based on a record quantity of 3.2 billion pounds. Imports of nonedible (industrial) products set a record in 1989, with products valued at $4.1 billion, an increase of $676.1 million compared with 1988 (NMFS, 1990).
The trade deficit in fishery products has not declined. The dollar value of imports was higher in 1989 than in the previous year (NMFS, 1990). Canada is still the largest exporter to the United States, sending in more than 700 million pounds of fishery products in 1988. Ecuador was ranked second and Mexico third. Whereas Canada ships finfish products, shrimp is the primary commodity exported by Ecuador and Mexico. Imports from Thailand and China are both increasing due to rising shrimp production from their expanding aquaculture systems.
On a worldwide basis, aquaculture is becoming a major new factor in seafood production. The cultivation of high-value species, popular in the U.S. market, is a major factor in import sourcing. China, for example, along with other Asian nations, is replacing South and Central American countries as a major shrimp supplier to the United States. Aquaculture is expected to determine much of the future fisheries growth, because wild stocks are nearing full utilization (NMFS, 1990; NOAA, 1990).
The total export value of edible and nonedible fishery products of domestic origin was a record $4.7 billion in 1989, an increase of $2.4 billion compared with 1988. The United States exported 1.4 billion pounds of edible products valued at $2.3 billion, compared with 1.1 billion pounds at $2.2 billion exported in 1988. Exports of nonedible products were valued at $2.4 billion. Japan continues to be America's best export customer. Over 700 million pounds of seafood was sold to the Japanese market, with salmon, crabs, and herring the primary commodities. Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and South Korea were also good markets in 1989, but the value of their imports was small, compared to Japan's purchase of West Coast products (NMFS, 1990).
Consumers in the United States spent an estimated $28.3 billion for fishery goods in 1989, a 5% increase from 1988 (NMFS, 1990). The total included $19.1 billion in expenditures in food service establishments (e.g., restaurants, carryouts, caterers); $9.0 billion in retail stores (for home consumption); and $181.7 million for
industrial fish products. In producing and marketing a variety of fishery products for domestic and foreign markets, the commercial fishing industry contributed $17.2 billion in value-added dollars to the gross national product (GNP), an increase of 5% compared to 1988.
Consumption of fish and shellfish in the United States totaled 15.9 pounds of edible meat per person in 1989 (NMFS, 1990). This total was up 0.7 pound from the 15.2 pounds consumed per capita in 1988. Per capita consumption of fresh and frozen products registered a total of 10.5 pounds, an increase of 0.3 pound from the 1988 level. Fresh and frozen finfish consumption was 7.1 pounds per capita in 1989. Fresh and frozen shellfish consumption amounted to 3.4 pounds per capita, with canned fishery products at 5.1 pounds per capita, up 0.4 pound over 1988. The per capita use of all fishery products (edible and nonedible) was 62.2 pounds (round weight), up 2.8 pounds compared with 1988 (NMFS, 1990).
Although most of the fish and shellfish consumed is from commercial production, a significant share is caught recreationally. In 1990, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) estimated that 17 million marine anglers harvested more than 600 million pounds of finfish (NOAA, 1990). Although statistics are lacking, NMFS suggests that 200-300 million live pounds of molluscs and crustaceans was harvested by recreationalists. This catch represents 3-4 live pounds or about 1-1.5 edible pounds of domestic per capita consumption (Krebs-Smith, 1989), outside the commercial figure of over 15 edible pounds per person. The source, handling, and distribution of the recreational catch are just beginning to draw attention. Indeed, because recreational anglers are not regulated as food producers/manufacturers, there is concern about the use and distribution of this "recreational" resource.
Although it is difficult to give definite numbers for either the commercial or the recreational harvesting sector, some general observations can be made. Commercially, the trend is toward more efficient activity. Consequently, the number of participants in the commercial sector is decreasing. The commercial processing industry appears headed toward consolidation, with increased dependence on imported products and aquaculture. Recreational participation remains strong. Consumption data, as suggested by both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce, indicate a continued, if not expanding, harvest of sport caught fish and shellfish. More than 20% of all fresh and frozen seafood consumed in the United States may now be attributed to noncommercial harvest and distribution.
Aquaculture is a rapidly growing mode of production in the seafood industry. Annual production of farmed fish and shellfish in the United States has grown 305% since 1980 (TFTC, 1988). The greatest production is of catfish (Sperber, 1989). Catfish production increased 31% from 1986 to 1987. According to the Catfish Institute, farm-raised catfish increased from 5.7 million pounds in 1970 to 295 million pounds in 1988 and were expected to exceed 310 million pounds in 1989 (Sperber, 1989). Salmon production in the Pacific Northwest and Maine totaled 85 million pounds in 1987. In addition, other fish that are farmed include trout, redfish, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, carp, and tilapia, as well as shellfish and crustaceans such as oysters and crawfish. Crawfish production acreage has increased 145% to about
160,000 acres. Overall U.S. aquaculture production of fish and shellfish increased from 203 million pounds in 1980 to some 750 million pounds in 1987. It is estimated that by the year 2000, that figure will reach 1.26 billion pounds.
Large amounts of cultured fish and shellfish are also imported annually. Approximately one-half of the 500 million pounds of shrimp imported is cultured (Schnick, 1990); 143 million pounds comes from China and Ecuador, neither of which regulates the use of chemotherapeutic agents in culture. More than 40 million pounds of salmon is also imported annually, often from countries similarly lacking tolerance levels for residues. Of special interest are the use of chloramphenicol in shrimp culture and ampicillin in yellowtail culture (Hawke et al., 1987; Manci, 1990). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not examined imported seafood for drug residues, and there is no information regarding levels that might be ingested (Schnick, 1990).
Aquaculture also produces fish used to stock recreational fishing areas. This procedure is under the control of government agencies that follow FDA regulations, use only approved drugs, and abide by legal withdrawal times.
Today's consumer is changing rapidly. Instead of single-income households, it is increasingly more common to have both man and woman working. The size of the family is decreasing. As many as one-fourth of all households are occupied by one person. This means more shoppers and diners, most with little time for home preparation (Davis, 1989).
Most adult men and women now work outside the home. In recent surveys, 7 out of 10 new home buyers noted that they will need two incomes to pay their respective mortgages. Nevertheless, the growth in two-income couples has generally created an increase in disposable income, but with little time to spend it. With as many as 50% of new mothers working outside the home within the first year of childbirth, it is easy to see the revolutionary changes taking place among families. The working mother or single dweller does not have the time to prepare meals in the traditional sense. In recent Food Marketing Institute (FMI) surveys, more than 30% of the husbands of women who work full-time did as much cooking, cleaning, and food shopping as their wives (Davis, 1989; FMI, 1988).
The population is aging. Going into the next century, the fastest growing groups will be those aged 45 to 54, along with those over age 85. By the year 2000, the proportion of Americans over age 65 will be the same throughout the country as the proportion in Florida today. An aging population means decreased discretionary spending and more demands for healthful and nutritious foods.
Minorities are growing in America. Within 10 years, one-quarter of all Americans will be either black, Hispanic, or Asian. The city of Los Angeles illustrates the trend. At present, Los Angeles is the largest Mexican city outside Mexico, the second largest Chinese city outside China, the second largest Japanese city outside Japan, and the largest Philippine city outside the Philippines (Davis, 1989).
The consumer demand for convenience, gourmet foods, ethnic items, and other services is increasingly evident in the food service and retail food industries. As the number of working women and single dwellers increases, the consumer base continues
to change. With reduced leisure time, consumers who once spent two hours per day in the kitchen now spend less than a half hour. Convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, specialty food service outlets, and prepared items in the supermarket are food industry responses (FMI, 1988; Taylor, 1989).
To illustrate the impact of less preparation time in the home, a quick review of consumer buying habits is in order. In 1973, almost 80% of the food dollar was spent on home-prepared foods. In 1988, this number had fallen to 67%. Many predict that the figure may be as low as 40% by the year 2000. As with all foods, fish and shellfish preparation must be viewed in the manner in which consumers use the product in a contemporary environment. This does not mean that the consumer will be eating at home less but, rather, that less time will be devoted to food preparation. This trend toward "cocooning," in which the family spends more time around the home but utilizes the time more prudently, is central to future consumer patterns (Davis, 1989).
Consumers want more convenience and nutrition. Value-added products, ready-to-eat items, and microwave entrees are examples. Deli departments of the supermarket may soon become food service operations, competing with fast-food and takeout restaurants (FMI, 1989; Taylor, 1989).
Seafood, like other foods, will be placed in a competitive consumer environment. Fish and shellfish must continue to taste good if they are expected to attract more consumers. Further, seafood must stay within the budget of the new consumer. If the industry can respond to the changing consumer base, the opportunity to expand per capita consumption appears good (Taylor, 1989).
The amount of imported product is not yet recognized as a potential problem by the consumer, yet it is of significant concern to regulatory officials. Rising needs place increased pressure on government to protect consumers without the ability to monitor the harvest, processing, and distribution of the hundreds of species in question. Because of the potential of ever-increasing imports, the safety issue is becoming a matter of international concern. Although agencies routinely sample and require country-of-origin labeling, the consumer is unaware of the complexity of attempting to truly safeguard these foodstuffs.
ACTIVITIES IN OTHER COUNTRIES
A number of countries have endeavored to enhance the value of their seafood products by enacting programs to ensure product quality. Canada, Denmark, and Norway have given high priority to marketing safe, quality seafood items. Canada, for example, inspects vessels, landing sites, and processing facilities on an annual basis. Vessels must meet the same exacting standards as processing facilities or risk losing their certification. Canadian plant registration requires compliance with a posted list of standards. At inspection, plants are rated by use of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HAACP) approach. Critical findings result in more frequent inspections or the possibility of noncertification.
In Europe, similar programs are in place. Denmark inspects fishing vessels. Each participant must meet certain sanitation requirements, as well as certification for activities such as on-board processing. Distribution centers receive regular inspections that monitor all products entering the marketplace. The advent of the European Economic Community (EEC) has brought forth a host of new regulations, ensuring that
member nations comply with the policies of their EEC partners.
Many other countries have seafood inspection programs, but they are often not dedicated programs like those in Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and New Zealand. Consequently, they do not pay the same rigorous attention to detail. Indeed, most countries have programs centered on seafood as a food group, not as a distinct entity that requires special attention.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Based on commercial sources, Americans consumed almost 23% more seafood in 1989 than they did 10 years earlier. This increase in consumption was not accompanied by a concomitant increase in reported seafood-borne illnesses. The total supply of fishery products to fulfill the domestic requirement for seafood was in excess of 8.5 billion pounds in 1989, with over 300 species involved in the catch statistics. Production and consumption trends suggest that domestic seafood demand will continue, with more emphasis on prepared convenience foods along with the traditional demand for fresh and frozen selections. Production will have to be supplemented with more imported and cultured sources. Recreational harvesting, both in the purist sense and as subsistence fishing, continues to contribute a significant portion to the annual per capita intake.
The committee recommends the following:
Consumer information studies must be conducted to monitor the rapidly changing consumption trends in the United States. Patterns of consumer use and preparation, as well as sources of seafood products used in the home, must be evaluated. By better understanding consumption patterns, fishery managers and food regulators will be more able to influence dietary intake, and reduce potential exposure to fish from contaminated water.
Changes in consumption patterns necessitate more attention to informing consumers on how to best handle highly perishable products such as seafood. As much as 50% of all reported, acute fish and shellfish problems might be eliminated by more careful handling and proper preparation in the home or in food service establishments. With the advent of more prepared foods, every effort should be made to ensure the safety of the product both in the manufacturing/distribution chain and for the end user.
The retail and institutional handling of seafood products requires increased attention to control cross-contamination. A number of seafood-related illnesses can be traced to poor sanitation practices by employees or to lack of proper handling via the distribution system. More efforts will be needed to alert all users to the importance of time/temperature relationships, HACCP concepts, good manufacturing practices, and new technology (e.g., live holding tanks).
Aquaculture promises to produce a larger share of domestically consumed fish and shellfish in the years ahead. Cultured plants and animals hold the promise of being high quality, and generally free of some of the contamination associated with wild species. Care, however, must be taken to avoid the untimely use of antibiotics and other chemicals in these closed or recirculated systems, which are often used to control pathogens in semiclosed systems.
The safety of recreationally harvested fish and shellfish requires increased vigilance, which means increased focus on the origin, handling, and distribution of recreational products. These harvesting efforts may now account for over 20% of all fresh and frozen seafood consumed in the United States. However, this catch is not well controlled, and users may handle, distribute, and prepare the product in an unsafe manner. Further, much of this product may be harvested from areas not suited for consumption due to natural or induced contamination problems. Increased educational activity is required to protect the consumer with regard to this resource. Fishery managers will have to pay greater attention to the implications of sport caught fish and shellfish on consumer health.
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