European processors say new smoked salmon rule threatens the industry

Fish processors say the change to EU rules on smoked salmon imposing a 96-hour limit on a crucial processing step will cause "significant disruption", but EU defines the tighter rules as a "victory for the consumers".
Smoked salmon processing rules have changed within the EU.

Smoked salmon processing rules have changed within the EU.

Photo: Adobe Stock.

The European Union is introducing new rules for smoked salmon processing, provoking outrage from Polish and Danish representatives of Europe's salmon processing sector.

The new regulation specifically targets the stiffening process in smoked salmon production, a critical step for ensuring safety and quality.

The stiffening process takes place after the salmon is smoked and before it is sliced, during which the fish is maintained at a temperature of -11ºC. Per the Food Codex guidelines, this stage is typically limited to a few days to preserve the salmon's quality and safety. However, some manufacturers may prolong this period.

Approved last week, the new European rule imposes a strict 96-hour limit on the process. Following this period, if the salmon has not been consumed, it must be frozen at a temperature of -18ºC.

The exact wording of the new EU rule is as follows:

"Where fresh fishery products, thawed unprocessed fishery products, or processed fishery products need to be at a temperature lower than that of melting ice to permit the use of machines that slice or cut fishery products, they may be maintained at such technologically required temperature for a period of time as short as possible and in any case not exceeding 96 hours. Storage and transport at that temperature shall not be allowed."

Salmon processing industry warns of "significant disruption"

The change to the processing rules was first proposed in December 2023, followed by vigorous objections by European fish processing industry representatives. Despite this, the European Parliament voted on 11 April to go ahead with the new regulation.

However, salmon processing industry critics warn that the new time limit could significantly disrupt production of smoked salmon, affecting quality, pricing, and the broader market across the EU.

The Polish Association of Fish Processors (PSPR) and the Danish Seafood Association (DSA), two of the main salmon processing countries within the EU, argue that the regulation lacks evidence of benefits, and risks undermining established industry practices, which could even lead to job losses down the line.

Poland and Denmark jointly supply about 60% of the smoked salmon in the European market.

The two national associations also claim that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has not endorsed the shorter timeframe, questioning the scientific basis for the decision to go ahead with the new legislation.

EU focus on consumer protection

However, EU legislators have defended their position, saying that the new time limit was brought in to protect consumers by curbing questionable practices by some industry players.

"Certain stakeholders profited of the fact that the stiffening period was not defined, for maintaining the salmon at an illegal temperature for months and selling it as fresh," said Paolo Caricato, Deputy Head of Food Hygiene at the EU Commission, in a LinkedIn post.

"We prepared a draft Delegated Regulation imposing as maximum stiffening period of 96h. The vote against the objection is a victory for the consumers. Who buys food has the right to eat a safe product, produced in a fair way, honestly and in compliance with the rules. Today is a good day," Caricato added.

New union for Europe's salmon processing industry

Europe's salmon processing industry is also grappling with another similarly contentious issue at present, with the ongoing debate over Norway's ban on the export of production-grade fish.

The newly-formed Union of European Salmon Processors has recently published an open letter calling on the European Commission to take action on the trade ban, stating "It is evident that we can no longer remain passive while this ban harms and threatens the very existence of our industry."

Related Stories

No stories found.