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Decades ago, people ate fish regularly as a cheap alternative to meat (especially on a Friday) with fish like cod being the most popular choice. Salmon was considered to be a luxury and fishmongers rarely stocked rarer fish like fresh tuna and shark. However, society’s eating habits have changed. Fish is now seen as something for a special occasion or is eaten in restaurants rather than at home.
As fish has become much more desirable, it has also become more expensive. People who buy fish from a fishmonger today are likely to be wealthier and usually looking for a luxury dinner item. However, most of the fish consumed in Britain these days is in restaurants. The catering industry is one of the biggest buyers and many of today’s fishmongers make much of their income from selling on a wholesale basis.
However, fishmongers do not have much of a monopoly on fresh fish sales these days. Most fish is bought from supermarkets – including supermarkets with dedicated wet fish counters. This Food Safety and Hygiene Guide for fishmongers will provide guidance and advice on achieving the highest food safety and hygiene standards in an independent fishmonger and a fish counter in a larger store. Having stringent food safety practices in a fishmonger is essential when it comes to running a successful shop.
Food safety and hygiene legislation to follow for fishmongers
All food businesses in the UK, including fishmongers, must follow the food safety and hygiene legislation to ensure that their customers are safe when eating fish products. There are several enforceable laws in the UK to protect consumers.
- The Food Safety Act 1990 – This Act provides a framework for all food and drink businesses to follow. The Act ensures that fishmongers and other businesses do not put anything in food, remove anything from food, or treat food in ways that would mean it could be damaging to the health of those eating it. It also ensures that fishmongers sell food that is of the substance, nature and quality that customers should expect and that food is labelled, presented and advertised in a way that is not misleading or false.
- The Food Standards Act 1999 – This Act establishes the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as the body that oversees UK food safety laws and legislation. Its main goal is to protect public health when it comes to food and gives the FSA the power to act in the consumers’ best interests during all stages of food production, processing and supply.
- The Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations:
– The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013
– The Food Hygiene Regulations (Scotland) 2006
– The Food Hygiene Regulations (Wales) 2006
– The Food Hygiene Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006
- The Food Information Regulations 2014
– These regulations stipulate that businesses must provide allergen information if a food contains any of the 14 listed allergens.
– These were amended by the Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019 to include Natasha’s Law.
Natasha’s Law became official legislation in October 2021. This law is a legacy left in the wake of the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a young woman who died after suffering from an allergic reaction to a baguette she bought from Pret a Manger at Heathrow Airport.
Before Natasha’s Law was enforced, food establishments like fishmongers and wet fish counters did not need to label any foods that were pre-packaged on the premises ready for sale. Such foods are commonly referred to as PPDS. Often, this type of food is not served in fishmongers as they tend to serve food that’s raw and packaged upon request when purchased. However, it is still important legislation that fishmongers must be aware of, especially if they package up some of their foods for sale such as pre-packaged fillets, packs of prawns or sliced salmon. Moreover, many fishmongers these days are diversifying by selling other goods such as fish fingers and fishcakes. If these goods are packaged before a customer requests them, they must also be labelled according to Natasha’s Law.
The labelling of these foods would need to include:
- The name of the food item.
- What ingredients it contains.
- Any of the 14 allergens that are required by law, listed and emphasised on the packaging.
Other regulations for fish mongers
In addition to the regulations and laws above, there is other legislation that is also applicable specifically to fishmongers and fish counters in larger stores. Whilst not always directly related to food safety and hygiene, fishmongers must be aware of this legislation too to avoid cross-contamination or incorrect labelling of products.
- Registering with the Marine Management Organisation in England if you are buying significant quantities of ‘first sale’ fish or shellfish from local fishing vessels.
- Ensuring the maximum allowable levels of certain named contaminants in food are adhered to. This includes levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, dioxins and PCBs, and marine biotoxins.
What happens if legislation is not followed?
If a fishmonger does not follow the law when it comes to food safety and hygiene, there can be disastrous consequences. These can be life-threatening for those who consume unsafe products as well as damaging for businesses.
One fishmonger, Michael Strong, was prosecuted for two offences relating to breaching health and safety regulations and three of breaching food safety laws in his shop in the town of North Walsham. He had allowed the ice to build up in his walk-in freezer and the walls and ceiling were in poor condition right next to the food preparation area. The fish were also found to be out of date and had freezer burns on them, which made the dried-up surface of the fish all the more vulnerable to contamination and bacteria from melting ice. The inspection resulted in more than 200kg of fish being destroyed.
Staff training on food hygiene for fishmongers
Staff training on food hygiene in fishmongers is a legal requirement. By law, all fishmongers and wet fish counters must make sure that those who prepare, handle and sell food are trained and supervised in food hygiene. This does not mean that every worker in a fishmonger or on a wet fish counter in a supermarket must have their own food hygiene certificate, however. But having food safety training and certification is the best way to show Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) as well as the shop’s customers that it is taking food safety and hygiene seriously. It also provides evidence of due diligence should there be an investigation for a breach in food safety legislation further down the line.
Fishmonger staff should have food hygiene training that is appropriate for their tasks and the area in which they work and relevant to their level of responsibility.
It should include training on:
Staff should have training on the importance of handwashing, not working when ill and covering cuts and wounds.
2.Storing ingredients, fresh wet fish, frozen fish etc.
Staff should have training on how to store ingredients correctly including separating raw and cooked ingredients, and temperature control.
3. Preparing fish products
Staff should be trained appropriately on how to avoid cross-contamination, handle raw fish, cook goods thoroughly if required, and ensure that food is not left out at room temperature for too long. Training should include specifics for fishmongers including the temperatures required for preparing the different kinds of fish and avoiding preparing different fish products at the same time.
4. Cleaning and sanitising preparation areas, display areas and serving areas.
Staff in a fishmonger should be trained on how to clean areas properly including how to clean different surfaces and equipment, and how to use cleaning products and cloths safely.
5. Managing food safety
Staff in a fishmonger should know the principles of hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) – a systematic approach to identifying any hazards and controlling potential hazards in foods.
There are different levels of food safety and hygiene certification:
- Level 1 – Level 1 is an introduction to food hygiene practices. This training is typically for those who handle low-risk foods such as foods that are already in packaging or already pre-prepared on-site. This level of certification is useful for those working on tills selling pre-packaged fish and other products.
- Level 2 – Level 2 is a basic food hygiene certificate. This is a good choice of certification for staff who prepare and handle fish products and/or other goods. Most fishmonger workers will need Level 2 certification, particularly those who work in preparing wet fish or who package up fish products.
- Level 3 – Level 3 is classed as an intermediate food hygiene certificate. This is for those who have significant responsibilities within the fishmonger such as the owner, manager and supervisors as well as those involved in food safety management and HACCP systems.
Whilst this initial training is important, fishmonger staff should also ensure that they refresh their food safety and hygiene training every couple of years or so, especially if there have been any changes to the legislation, as with Natasha’s Law.
For most people, food hazards are something that we are naturally aware of in our day-to-day lives. However, the level of awareness of food hazards needed is different when you are working in a fishmonger. Given that they’re handling raw fish, fishmongers must have enhanced awareness of all hazards that may pose a risk to consumers. Raw fish often poses a greater risk by its very nature.
The FSA describes a food hazard as “something that could make food unsafe or unfit to eat”. The hazards can either be biological, chemical, physical or allergenic.
Biological food hazards are microorganisms or other living organisms. Some microorganisms can cause disease or illness in humans if they are consumed through contaminated food. The most common biological hazards in food include bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi.
- Bacteria – Fish can harbour harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, Vibrio species and Escherichia coli (E. coli), which can cause food poisoning when they are present in contaminated food. This occurs when fish is not handled, stored or cooked properly.
- Viruses – Viruses such as norovirus and hepatitis A can be spread through contaminated food including fish products and cause gastrointestinal illness. Bacterial contamination is generally more common, however.
- Parasites – Certain types of fish such as freshwater fish, may contain parasites like roundworms, tapeworms or flukes. These parasites can pose a risk to consumers if the fish is not properly inspected, processed or cooked.
- Toxins – Certain types of fish such as predatory fish like tuna, swordfish or shark can contain high levels of mercury which is a toxic heavy metal. Consumption of fish with high mercury levels over time can lead to adverse health effects, particularly in vulnerable populations like pregnant women and young children.
- Fungi – Mould growth can occur on fish if it is not stored in appropriate conditions, leading to potential fungal contamination and the production of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by mould. Some common mycotoxins associated with food contamination include aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, fumonisins and zearalenone.
To mitigate these biological food hazards, fishmongers should adhere to the following practices:
1. Maintain cleanliness. The shop should be kept clean and well maintained. Regular cleaning and sanitising of surfaces, equipment and utensils should happen to minimise contamination risk.
2. Practise proper personal hygiene. Staff should follow proper handwashing techniques before and after handling fish. Wearing gloves and using clean utensils can also help prevent cross-contamination.
3. Ensure proper storage. Fish should be stored at appropriate temperatures to inhibit bacterial growth. Cold storage units should be regularly monitored and maintained to prevent spoilage.
4. Implement proper seafood sourcing. Ensure that fish and seafood are sourced from reputable suppliers who follow good aquaculture or fishing practices to minimise the risk of contamination.
5. Educate and train staff on proper food handling and safety procedures.
6. Display accurate information including clear labelling of fish products.
By following these preventative measures, a fishmonger can significantly reduce the risks of biological food hazards, ensuring the health and safety of the fish and seafood sold to customers.
Chemical food hazards refer to harmful substances that can contaminate food and cause illness or disease when consumed. Chemical food hazard substances can occur naturally in the environment or be added to food either purposefully or accidentally. In a fishmonger, chemical hazards primarily arise from cleaning agents, pesticides, food additives and accidental contamination.
Some chemical hazards that pose a risk to foods from a fishmonger include:
- Heavy metals – Certain fish species have the potential to accumulate heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic in their tissues. These metals can enter the fish’s body through contaminated water sources or their prey. Regular consumption of fish contaminated with high levels of heavy metals can lead to long-term health risks, particularly for children and pregnant women.
- Cleaning agents – Fishmongers often use various cleaning products to maintain a clean and hygienic environment. Whilst necessary, these chemicals can lead to contamination of food surfaces and equipment when handled incorrectly. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, dilute any chemicals correctly, and ensure thorough rinsing to prevent chemical residues on food contact surfaces.
- Pesticides and herbicides – Fish can be exposed to pesticides and herbicides if they inhabit waters contaminated by agricultural runoff or if chemicals are used to control pests in fish farming operations. Consumption of fish contaminated with these chemicals can pose health risks, depending on the toxicity and level of exposure.
- Antibiotics and veterinary drugs – In aquaculture practices, antibiotics and veterinary drugs are sometimes used to prevent and treat diseases in fish. Improper use of these substances, including exceeding recommended dosage or using unauthorised drugs, can result in residues in the fish. If consumed by humans, it can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance or cause adverse health effects.
- Food additives and preservatives – Some fish and seafood products may contain additives and preservatives to enhance flavour, texture or extend shelf life. While many food additives are considered safe, improper use or excessive levels can be harmful. Consumers with specific sensitivities or allergies may also be at risk if these additives are not clearly labelled.
- Contaminants from packaging – Chemicals from packaging materials such as plasticisers and bisphenol A (BPA) can migrate into foods and cause health problems.
To minimise chemical hazards in a fishmonger it is important to implement the following measures:
1. Source fish from reputable suppliers. Ensure that fish and seafood are sourced from those who follow regulations and standards for environmental safety and proper fishing practices.
2. Monitor and test fish quality for heavy metal contamination and other chemical residues. Implement appropriate testing procedures to ensure that fish meet safety standards before being sold.
3. Proper storage and handling are essential. Store fish in appropriate containers and facilities to prevent contamination from chemicals or cleaning agents. Follow safe handling practices to minimise the risk of chemical exposure.
4. Ensure the proper use of additives and preservatives by adhering to the recommended guidelines for the use of additives and preservatives. Clearly label products with the ingredients used, including potential allergens.
5. Safe cleaning practices. Train staff on the proper use, handling and storage of cleaning agents. Ensure that surfaces and equipment are thoroughly rinsed to remove any residual chemicals.
6. Regulatory compliance. Stay up to date with local and national regulations regarding chemical safety in fish and seafood. Comply with labelling requirements, permissible limits of contaminants and other relevant guidelines.
By implementing these preventative measures and maintaining strict quality control standards, fishmongers can minimise the presence of chemical hazards, ensuring the safety of the fish and seafood they sell to consumers.
In a fishmonger, physical hazards refer to any foreign objects or substances that may accidentally contaminate the fish and seafood being sold, posing a risk to consumers. These hazards can occur during processing, handling or storage of the products.
Here are some examples of physical hazards that may be found in a fishmonger:
- Bones and scales – Fish naturally have bones and scales, which can pose a physical hazard if not properly removed during processing. Inadequate removal of bones and scales can result in the presence of sharp fragments that may cause choking or injury if consumed.
- Fishhooks and fishing gear – Fishing gear, including hooks, lines or nets, can accidentally end up in fish catches. If not identified and removed during processing, these objects can present a risk to consumers if ingested.
- Packaging materials – Improper handling of packaging materials, such as plastic wrap, Styrofoam or metal staples, can lead to physical contamination of the fish. If these materials accidentally mix with the product, they can cause injuries or choking hazards if consumed.
- Foreign objects – Foreign objects like stones, shells, pieces of plastic or metal fragments can inadvertently contaminate fish during harvesting, processing or packaging stages. These objects may pose a physical hazard if they remain in the final product and are consumed.
- Splinters from wooden equipment – If wooden cutting boards or utensils are not properly maintained, they can develop splinters over time. These splinters can break off and contaminate fish during cutting or processing, potentially causing injuries if ingested.
To minimise physical hazards, fishmongers should implement the following preventative measures:
1. Quality control during processing: Implement thorough inspection processes to ensure bones, scales, fishhooks and other foreign objects are properly removed from fish during processing. Proper training of staff in fish cleaning and filleting techniques is essential.
2. Effective packaging practices: Use appropriate packaging materials that are durable and free from potential physical contaminants. Ensure that packaging materials are securely sealed to prevent any foreign objects from entering the product.
3. Proper handling and storage: Train staff on proper handling techniques to minimise the risk of physical contamination. Store fish and seafood in clean, designated areas and regularly inspect the storage facilities for any potential hazards.
4. Equipment maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain equipment used in fish processing to ensure it is in good condition and free from splinters or other physical hazards. Replace any damaged or worn-out equipment promptly.
5. Supplier evaluation: Work with reputable suppliers who follow good manufacturing practices and have effective quality control measures in place to minimise physical hazards at the source.
6. Staff training and awareness: Educate employees about the importance of identifying and preventing physical hazards. Encourage a culture of safety and attentiveness to minimise the risk of foreign objects or substances contaminating the fish.
By implementing these preventative measures, fishmongers can significantly reduce the presence of physical hazards, ensuring the safety and quality of the fish and seafood they sell to consumers. Regular inspections, proper handling techniques, and employee training are key to maintaining a safe and hazard-free environment in a fishmonger.
Allergenic hazards in food are those which can cause an allergic reaction in people with food allergies. Allergens are typically proteins that are found in certain foods, and when someone with an allergy consumes them, their immune system reacts by releasing histamines and other chemicals that can cause mild to severe symptoms, including anaphylaxis which can ultimately lead to death.
Allergenic hazards in a fishmonger primarily revolve around the presence of allergens that can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Seafood allergies are relatively common and certain proteins present in fish can elicit allergic responses, ranging from mild to severe, including anaphylaxis.
Here are some key points regarding allergenic hazards in a fishmonger:
- Fish Allergens: Fish contain specific proteins, such as parvalbumins, which are known to be allergenic. Common fish varieties implicated in allergies include salmon, tuna, cod and haddock. Allergic reactions can occur even from trace amounts of these proteins, and sensitivity varies among individuals.
- Shellfish Allergens: Shellfish fall into a different allergenic category to fish in that it is a broad category that includes crustaceans such as crab, lobster and shrimp as well as molluscs like mussels, clams, scallops and oysters. The proteins in shellfish, such as tropomyosin, are known allergens and can trigger allergic reactions.
- Cross-Contamination: Cross-contamination poses a significant risk in a fishmonger. If equipment, utensils or surfaces are not thoroughly cleaned after contact with fish, allergenic proteins can be transferred to other products, increasing the risk of accidental exposure for customers with allergies.
- Airborne Allergens: Airborne allergens can be a concern in the fishmonger environment, particularly if there are open displays or the handling of fish generates aerosols. Inhaling allergenic particles can trigger respiratory symptoms or exacerbate existing allergies in sensitive individuals.
When it comes to allergenic hazards, proper labelling is crucial to inform customers about the presence of potential allergens in fish products. Clear and accurate allergen labelling should be provided, highlighting any fish species contained in the product and any potential cross-contamination risks.
Staff members should receive comprehensive training on allergenic hazards, including recognising symptoms of allergic reactions, and understanding proper handling and storage practices to prevent cross-contamination. This includes the importance of dedicated utensils and equipment for allergen-free products.
Fishmongers should also implement segregation measures to prevent cross-contact between allergenic and non-allergenic products. This includes storing and displaying fish products separately and ensuring separate cutting boards, knives and preparation areas for allergen-free options.
Establishing open communication with customers regarding their specific allergies can aid in addressing their concerns. It allows for personalised recommendations, suggestions for suitable alternatives and increased awareness of potential risks associated with specific fish products.
By implementing proper allergen management practices, ensuring thorough cleaning, promoting clear labelling, and providing staff training, fishmongers can mitigate allergenic hazards and create a safer environment for customers with seafood allergies. Such measures demonstrate a commitment to customer safety and help build trust and loyalty within the community.
When handling food, fishmongers must follow the 4Cs of food hygiene to best prevent and avoid food hazards.
The 4Cs are:
According to the Food Standards Agency, a lack of proper cleaning is one of the most common reasons why a food business like a fishmonger is prosecuted. Cleaning is vital. It prevents harmful pathogens or cross-contact allergens from spreading, getting where they shouldn’t, and contaminating foods. Cleaning also discourages pests from making a home on the premises.
Cleaning in a fishmonger includes removing contaminants from surfaces, utensils and equipment. In a fishmonger, all food contact surfaces should be cleaned regularly including cutting boards, knives and counters. All equipment and machinery used in fish filleting and processing should also be cleaned and maintained properly. Floors, walls and storage areas must be cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of dirt, bacteria or pests. Waste should also be managed well to prevent odours and minimise the risk of contamination.
Many fishmongers use a ‘clean as you go’ cleaning system whereby the workers clean up continually as they work before doing one final clean at the end of the day.
Not many fishmongers cook any goods on the premises. However, should they provide cooked fish, it is essential that the fish is cooked properly. Sometimes, fishmongers cook samples of their products for customers to try before they buy. This means that any cooking must be done correctly before food is sold to customers. If food is undercooked, it can mean that it is not safe to eat and could cause illness such as food poisoning if someone eats it. Foods must be cooked for the correct amount of time at the correct temperature to ensure that any harmful bacteria that are present in the food are killed. Fishmongers should also follow any food preparation guidelines on packaging (if present) and ensure that it is piping hot during cooking.
Nearly all foodborne illnesses happen as a result of cross-contamination when harmful allergens or pathogens are transferred into food from surfaces, utensils, between foods and from person to food. Cross-contamination of bacteria and viruses often results in what people call ‘food poisoning’. When referring to allergens, the term ‘cross-contact’ is more often used. It only takes a microscopic amount of allergen to cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Aside from pathogens and allergens, cross-contamination can occur with chemicals such as those used in cleaning, especially ones that are sprayed into the air where they can settle on food.
Staff working in a fishmonger must take cross-contamination and cross-contact extremely seriously. Fishmongers often pose a greater risk of cross-contact than some other food establishments due to their layouts.
Fishmonger owners should take the risks seriously and should have the following strategies in place:
- All workers must practise good personal hygiene.
- There should be separate areas for utensils and equipment if dealing with allergens.
- Equipment and utensils should be thoroughly cleaned between uses.
- Food should be stored correctly as per the guidance below.
- Cleaning should be consistent and cautious.
When it comes to chilling fish in a fishmonger, the following guidelines and temperature regulations are recommended:
- Fridge temperature: The FSA advise that refrigerated storage areas should be set at a maximum temperature of 8°C. This is because this temperature helps slow down the growth of bacteria and helps maintain the quality and safety of perishable foods, including fish products. However, the recommended temperature for chilled fish is actually lower, at 5°C.
- Cold storage units: Fish should be stored in dedicated cold storage units such as cold rooms or refrigerators designed specifically for food storage. These units should have accurate temperature controls, reliable thermometers and regular maintenance to ensure they are functioning properly.
- Temperature monitoring: The temperature of fridges and display cabinets must be monitored and recorded regularly using appropriate thermometers. This will help detect any unsafe fluctuation in temperature control.
Whilst chilling does not kill harmful bacteria, it does slow down their growth, meaning they should not grow to unsafe quantities. When food isn’t chilled properly, it enters the ‘danger zone’. This encourages pathogens to grow and increases the risk of food poisoning. Compliance with these requirements not only ensures food safety but also helps maintain the quality and freshness of fish, providing customers with a positive experience and minimising the risk of foodborne illness.
Personal hygiene in fishmongers
Personal hygiene is of the utmost importance in fishmongers to ensure the safety and cleanliness of the working environment as well as for the customers who purchase the fishmonger’s products.
Every worker in the fishmonger should be trained in proper personal hygiene, including:
- Hand hygiene: Direction on how to wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before starting work, after using the toilet, after handling raw fish, and after any activities that may contaminate the hands. Hands should be washed for a minimum of 20 seconds. Hand sanitiser can be used as an additional measure (but not instead of handwashing). Proper handwashing prevents the spread of bacteria and other pathogens within the fishmonger.
- Protective clothing: Fishmongers should wear appropriate protective clothing including clean uniforms or aprons, hairnets or hats to cover hair, and disposable gloves when handling raw fish or ready-to-eat products. Gloves should be changed regularly (especially in between handling raw fish and ready-to-eat products) and should not be considered a replacement for washing hands.
- Illness and injuries: Employees with infectious illnesses such as stomach viruses or respiratory infections should not handle food and should report their illness to their supervisor. Cuts, wounds and skin infections should be properly covered with waterproof dressings before starting work. This helps reduce the transmission of any pathogens from staff to the fishmonger’s products.
- No eating, drinking or smoking: Doing any of these activities is not permitted in areas where fish is handled or processed. This helps prevent foreign substances from being introduced and reduces the contamination risk.
- Personal cleanliness: Employees in fishmongers should maintain high standards of personal cleanliness. This includes showering and bathing, keeping hair clean and tied back, and nails short and clean. Perfumes or strongly scented products should also be avoided as they could taint the fish products.
- Training: Staff must be trained in personal hygiene and proper handwashing techniques and the role that they play in maintaining food safety. Refresher courses, regular reminders and posters on the premises should help reinforce good hygiene practices.
Food allergens in fishmongers
In a fishmonger, many food allergens may be present, either in the raw fish itself or in the products made and sold in the shop. For those with allergies, coming across even a minuscule amount of allergen can be fatal. Some fishmongers prepare foods like fish fingers or fishcakes with their fish too. This means that many allergens may be present near other products. Because of this, many fishmongers may state that although a product does not contain an allergen directly, they cannot guarantee that there hasn’t been any cross-contact.
By law, 14 allergens must be listed on ingredients for products sold.
These allergens are:
- Cereals containing gluten such as wheat, rye, barley and oats.
- Crustaceans, such as prawns, crabs and lobsters.
- Molluscs such as clams, mussels and oysters.
- Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts.
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre).
In a fishmonger, the most common allergens that are likely to be found are, of course, fish and crustaceans. Wheat and gluten are also commonly found in breaded fish products such as breaded fish fillets, fish fingers or fishcakes. Marinades and sauces also commonly contain wheat.
Information on all allergens in products should be readily available for customers and if the food is pre-packaged for direct sale (PPDS) then the ingredients must be clearly labelled on the packaging.
Workers should take precautions to avoid cross-contact when preparing food within the fishmonger.
This can be achieved by:
- Ensuring that allergenic hazards are included in HACCP systems and controls are put in place.
- Providing training on allergens for staff, including what to do in emergencies if a customer has an allergic reaction.
- Looking for allergenic ingredients on purchased products before using or supplying them.
- Preparing products containing allergens in a separate area from non-allergenic products, for example using different coloured chopping boards.
- Storing allergen-containing products separately from non-allergen-containing products.
- Cleaning surfaces and utensils thoroughly between uses where separate equipment is not possible.
- Labelling containers with any allergens stored within them.
- Recording information regarding allergens accurately, including on-shelf labels or ingredient labels and recipes.
Unlike pathogens such as bacteria, allergens are not affected by heating or cooling. As a result, fishmongers should be extra careful when handling any allergens and proceed with caution if a customer reports an allergy. Many fishmongers state that they handle all 14 allergens on the premises and cannot guarantee that their products are free from certain allergens, to be on the safe side.
Safely storing food in fishmongers
Food should be stored correctly in a fishmonger to maintain the quality of the food as well as prevent any foodborne illnesses.
There must be strict storage systems in place including:
- Storing food at the right temperature. The refrigerator should be kept at or below 5°C and frozen food at or below -18°C. There are also specific rules in place for the temperatures that are needed when preparing different types of fish, as mentioned above.
- The temperature of the fridge and freezer should be checked regularly to ensure that they are working correctly.
- Storage containers should be food-safe and should be labelled with the name of the food and the date it was stored as well as labelling any allergens within it to ensure proper and safe storage.
- Food should be stored in clean, dry and well-ventilated areas to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould.
- Advice for specific food storage should be followed.
- Rotate food regularly to ensure that older food is used up first. Have a system with first-in-first-out (FIFO) stock rotation.
- Dispose of any spoiled or out-of-date food promptly.
Safely serving food in a fishmonger
It’s important for those working in fishmongers to know how to handle wet fish and other seafood correctly when serving it to customers. Workers must avoid touching wet fish directly with their bare hands and use gloves, tongs or other utensils to minimise direct contact and reduce the risk of contamination. A firm grip must be used to avoid dropping or damaging the fish. Wet fish can be slippery, so it’s important to hold it well.
Workers should allow excess water to drain from the fish before handling it or placing it on surfaces. This reduces the potential for waterborne bacteria or pathogens to spread. All tools and utensils should be thoroughly cleaned between uses for different types of fish to prevent cross-contact between allergens. Clean and food-safe packaging must also be used to protect the fish on its onward journey.
Waste management in fishmongers
Handling the waste effectively in a fishmonger is essential as, if it is poorly managed, it can result in problems with pests. Handling fish, fish bones, shells and fish heads means that waste from fishmongers is also hazardous.
Here are some best practices for waste management in a fishmonger:
1. Segregation: Proper segregation of different types of waste is vital. This means separating general waste, recyclable materials, food waste and potentially hazardous waste including animal remains, sharp objects and chemicals. Waste bins should be clearly labelled for their category and staff members should be trained on proper segregation practices.
2. Food waste management: Measures to reduce food waste generation should be implemented. This includes accurately estimating customer demand so that there is not too much waste that needs to be disposed of. Excess food waste should be disposed of correctly, in tightly sealed containers to prevent odours and pests. Surplus edible food should be considered for charity to minimise waste and maximise use.
3. Recycling: Fishmongers should ensure they are recycling as much as possible by having easily accessible, clearly labelled bins for different recyclable materials such as cardboard/paper, glass, plastic and tins.
4. Hazardous waste: Waste such as fish waste should be disposed of properly. This type of waste is often collected by specialist disposal companies. This ensures that odours and pests are prevented as much as possible. You should consider options for proper disposal such as arranging regular pick-ups from waste management services or collaborating with local farmers for composting.
5. Liquid waste: Managing liquid waste such as water used for fish cleaning or ice melt must be done appropriately. Drainage systems should be used or designated sinks to dispose of liquid waste, ensuring it does not contaminate other areas or equipment.
6. Waste collection and disposal: Fishmongers should engage with professional waste management services that are licensed and compliant with environmental regulations. Waste collections should be scheduled regularly to prevent bins from overflowing potentially causing hygiene issues. Records of waste collection and disposal should also be kept for auditing purposes.
7. Cleaning protocols: Waste storage areas in a fishmonger should be cleaned and sanitised regularly to minimise odours, prevent pests and keep the environment as clean as possible. Staff should be trained on the importance of waste management to maintain overall food safety and cleanliness.
Aside from these, waste should also be removed regularly from food areas to avoid it accumulating. Bins should be easily accessible, both inside and outside, but should be lockable outdoors when not in use to prevent pests.
A fishmonger should foster a culture of waste management awareness among all workers in the team, making sure that everyone knows that they have a role to play in best waste management practices. By doing so, fishmongers can maintain a clean, hygienic environment that is fit for purpose as well as show their commitment towards being a responsible business.
Pests are a well-known hazard in many food establishments – and fishmongers are not immune!
The presence of food and waste easily attracts common pests, including:
- Flies – Flies, especially fruit flies and house flies, are attracted to the odour of decomposing fish and food waste. They can contaminate food surfaces and spread bacteria and diseases.
- Rodents – Rats and mice are attracted to the abundance of food sources in fishmongers including fish scraps and improperly stored food. They can cause significant damage to property, contaminate food and spread diseases through their droppings and urine.
- Cockroaches – Cockroaches enjoy moist environments so could well be attracted to a fishmonger. They can contaminate fish and trigger allergic reactions in some people.
- Beetles – Grain beetles or flour beetles are attracted to stored products that may be used such as dry goods like flour to make coatings for fish. They can infest these stored items, contaminate food and cause damage to packaging.
- Silverfish – These small, wingless insects are attracted to damp and humid environments. They can feed on fish packaging materials and contaminated stored products.
- Ants – Certain ant species are drawn to fishmongers by the scent of the food. They can contaminate food surfaces and packaging although they tend to be drawn towards sweet or sugary products the most.
Preventing infestations of pests in a fishmonger is essential.
Fishmongers can try to prevent and control pests by:
- Keeping the fishmonger clean and tidy. This includes cleaning the floors, walls and counters. Food spills should be cleaned promptly.
- Disposing of waste correctly, particularly food waste as this is what attracts pests the most. Bins should be tightly sealed.
- Storing food correctly in tightly sealed containers. Containers should not be on the floor to prevent pests from entering them. When raw materials arrive from suppliers, the contents should be inspected carefully to make sure no pests are being introduced to the fishmonger.
- Sealing any pest entry points such as cracks and gaps around windows, pipes, doors and floor. This will help to prevent pests from entering the fishmonger.
- Using products if pests are suspected to catch and/or eliminate them.
- Hiring professionals in to clear any pest infestations so that the job is done properly.
- Training the staff who work in the fishmonger to promote the importance of good practices within the shop and how to prevent pests.
By following such tips, fishmongers and their customers can be sure to be as safe as possible.