European Food Safety Alerts for Shark Products

Helmut Nickel, Shark Year Magazine,
30. September 2013

EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed Notifications concerning shark products from 23. February 2012 to 11. September 2013

Thirty-four food safety notifications regarding shark products have been issued by member countries of the European Union since February 2012. Earlier notifications can be viewed in our previous post from 31. January 2012 EU Food Alert – Mercury in Fish.

The clear majority of the food safety alerts was made by Italy with 21 notifications.
In ca. 47 percent of the 34 cases, the shark products were supplied by Spain.
About 70 percent of the notifications concerns not tolerable mercury concentrations measured in products of only two pelagic shark species ( blue and mako shark ). The highest mercury level was recorded in a sample of frozen shortfin mako from Spain ( with 8.61 mg/kg – ppm, Notification Date: 02. October 2012 ). In the European Union, the maximum mercury level allowable in muscle meat of all shark species is 1.0 mg/kg wet weight.

Spiny dogfish imports from sustainable fisheries in the United States caused food safety alerts and border rejections in Germany, France and Italy. These products showed an industrial contamination with non-dioxin-like and dioxin-like Polychlorobiphenyl (PCB). In late August 2013, German authorities denied the import of over 18 tons of frozen spiny dogfish. Just a few weeks earlier, about 740 kg of US spiny dogfish had been withdrawn from the market in Italy.

Another noteworthy case was reported from Italy in November 2012:
A Chinese delivery of frozen shark fillets had the scientific name ‘Carchrocles megalodon’ on its label. This is obviously a slight misspelling of Carcharocles megalodon, the Megalodon, which is an extinct species of shark that lived millions of years ago. Italian customs authorities rejected the import and the whole consignment of 1.200 kg shark meat was destroyed.

Related tables and all notification-details are listed below.
For comparison reasons, there is also a table with the numbers of EU Food Safety Notifications regarding mercury concentrations above legal limits in bony fish species (e.g. swordfish and tuna ).

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Notification Details (only shark products) in descending chronological order

Notification date: 11. September 2013
Notification from: GREECE
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: China
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.3 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: Import not authorised
Distribution status:

Notification date: 21. August 2013
Notification from: GERMANY
Product: chilled spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
Amount: 18.597 kg
Origin: USA
Hazard: dioxin-like polychlorobiphenyls (industrial contaminants)
Analytical Result: not reported
Action taken: border rejection
Distribution status: product not placed on the market

Notification date: 19. August 2013
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen shortfin mako ( Isurus oxyrinchus )
Amount: 5.459 kg
Origin: Japan ( via Spain )
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 5.6 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: information on distribution not (yet) available

Notification date: 09. August 2013
Notification from: ITALY
Product: chilled shortfin mako ( Isurus oxyrinchus ).
Amount: 600 kg
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.15 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken:
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

Notification date: 02. August 2013
Notification from: ITALY
Product: chilled spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
Amount: 740 kg
Origin: USA
Hazard: non-dioxin-like polychlorobiphenyls (industrial contaminants)
Analytical Result: 152 ng/kg – ppt
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: restricted to Italy

Notification date: 18. July 2013
Notification from: GREECE
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 2.6 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: no distribution from notifying country

Notification date: 24. June 2013
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca ).
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.3 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: information on distribution not (yet) available

Notification date: 19. June 2013
Notification from: ITALY
Product: spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
Origin: USA
Hazard: non-dioxin-like polychlorobiphenyls (industrial contaminants)
Analytical Result: 113 µg/kg – ppb
Action taken:
Distribution status: restricted to Italy

Notification date: 14. June 2013
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen mako shark ( Isurus oxyrinchus )
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 2.4 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

Notification date: 24. May 2013
Notification from: FRANCE
Product: chilled spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
Origin: USA
Hazard: non-dioxin-like polychlorobiphenyls (industrial contaminants)
Analytical Result: 113501 pg WHO TEQ/g
Action taken: informing authorities
Distribution status: distributed to France, Italy.

Notification date: 14. May 2013
Notification from: SLOVENIA
Product: frozen fillets, blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Spain (packaged in Slovenia)
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.6 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: informing recipients
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

Notification date: 18. March 2013
Notification from: POLAND
Product: frozen blue shark steaks (Prionace glauca)
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 3.33 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

Notification date: 01. March 2013
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Portugal
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.25 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

Notification date: 01. February 2013
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen shortfin mako shark ( Isurus oxyrinchus )
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 3.5 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: informing authorities
Distribution status: product already consumed

Notification date: 15. January 2013
Notification from: ESTONIA
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Vietnam
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.35 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: official detention
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

Notification date: 27. November 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen shark fillets, Megalodon shark ( Carcharocles megalodon )
Amount: 1.200 kg
Origin: China
Subject: incorrect labelling ( species mentioned on the label is extinct for millions of years )
Action taken: destruction
Distribution status: no distribution

Notification date: 02. October 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen slices of shortfin mako ( Isurus oxyrinchus )
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 8.61 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken:
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

Notification date: 18. September 2012
Notification from: UNITED KINGDOM
Product: frozen milk shark ( Rhizoprionodon acutus )
Origin: Yemen
Hazard: Cadmium
Analytical Result: 0.76 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: official detention
Distribution status: distribution to UK and France.

Notification date: 08. August 2012
Notification from: UNITED KINGDOM
Product: frozen ‘ baby shark ‘ ( presumably milk shark, Rhizoprionodon acutus )
Origin: Yemen
Hazard: Cadmium
Analytical Result: 0.67 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: -
Distribution status: no distribution.

Notification date: 07. August 2012
Notification from: GERMANY
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Vietnam
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.58 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: re-dispatch
Distribution status: no distribution.

Notification date: 13. July 2012
Notification from: MALTA
Product: fresh dogfish
Origin: Malta
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 2.1 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken:
Distribution status: restricted to Malta

Notification date: 11. July 2012
Notification from: GERMANY
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Vietnam
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.4 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: re-dispatch
Distribution status: no distribution

Notification date: 26. June 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen slices of shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus)
Origin: Singapore
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 5.47 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

Notification date: 14. June 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Vietnam
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.3 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: informing authorities
Distribution status: no distribution.

Notification date: 28. May 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Spain ( manufactured in Italy ).
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.89 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: distributed to France and Italy.

Notification date: 21. May 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen shortfin mako shark ( Isurus oxyrinchus ).
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.15 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: destruction
Distribution status: information on distribution not (yet) available

Notification date: 14. May 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: chilled mako shark ( Isurus oxyrinchus ).
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 2.6 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: no action taken
Distribution status: no stock left

Notification date: 24. April 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: chilled small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula)
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 2.3 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: product past use-by date

Notification date: 21. March 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen shortfin mako ( Isurus oxyrinchus ).
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.2 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: withdrawal from the market
Distribution status: information on distribution not (yet) available

Notification date: 16. March 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: frozen blue shark ( Prionace glauca )
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.389 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: official detention
Distribution status: information on distribution not (yet) available

Notification date: 16. March 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: chilled small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula)
Origin: Croatia
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.903 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: Import not authorised
Distribution status: no distribution.

Notification date: 09. March 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: defrosted mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 3.7 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: no action taken
Distribution status: product already consumed

Notification date: 02. March 2012
Notification from: ITALY
Product: defrosted mako shark ( Isurus oxyrinchus ).
Origin: Spain
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 3.5 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: no action taken
Distribution status: product already consumed

Notification date: 23. February 2012
Notification from: FRANCE
Product: frozen blue shark steaks ( Prionace glauca ).
Origin: Ecuador
Hazard: Mercury
Analytical Result: 1.159 mg/kg – ppm
Action taken: destruction
Distribution status: distribution restricted to notifying country

 

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1 Comment

  1. Helmut,
    Great article.
    Do we know the limits of mercury allowable for other areas, like USA, Spain, and so on?
    Just thinking, the allowable limits for USA might 200 ppm when the UK is 100 ppm and Japan might be 500ppm. 
    Al

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