Checks by Norwegian authorities at producers of a traditional dish have found a high level of compliance, according to a recently released report.

Rakfisk is a fish product made by mild-salting and brine maturation at low temperatures for several months and is eaten without heat treatment.

In 2020, two cases of botulism were recorded with the suspected source of infection being homemade rakfisk. Three Listeria outbreaks have been reported after people consumed rakfisk in recent years including one in late 2018 to early 2019 that caused 13 cases of listeriosis.

In late 2021, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) inspected 53 rakfisk producers and companies that handle fish as a raw material, which represented 80 percent of registered and seasonally producing companies.

“The aim was to investigate whether the companies follow the regulations, and whether they fulfill their responsibility to ensure that consumers receive safe fish products. We placed special emphasis on whether the companies have control over the hazards and whether they carry out sampling for Listeria,” said Aud Drotningsvik, who managed the campaign.

Inspection findings and Listeria results
No major problems were discovered at 37 production sites during the in-person and virtual audits. The issues found mainly related to the risk management systems and a need to improve hazard analysis, documentation and sampling.

At six companies, guidance was provided on requirements in the legislation and in 10 businesses, one or more breaches of regulations were noted. However, inspectors did not find conditions that were bad enough to assess production methods as unsafe.

Deviations from the rules on raw materials were found at three companies and included a lack of control for Listeria in received material and no assessment of possible content of PFAS in fish.

A company received guidance on temperature conditions during transport to customers and another was told to improve cleaning of equipment.

Listeria samples were taken from 37 rakfisk producers and positives were reported at four companies. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority followed up to ensure the companies do not sell fish contaminated with Listeria, that they have procedures for dealing with such incidents, and they take measures to reduce the risk of contamination.

Similar inspections were done in 2010 and 2016 with officials saying the level of compliance was higher in the latest action. They noted improvements in sampling and general knowledge of the hazards. The proportion of sites with no noted problems after the audit increased from 46 percent in 2010 to 70 percent in 2021.

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