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NFI Forum: NFI is there to help fend off the regulatory' gators

John Connelly
John Connelly
September 01, 2005

A member recently asked me how the National Fisheries Institute balances a long-term, strategic approach to shaping our future with the more immediate need to help members get fish and seafood to market.

“John,” he asked, “how do we help companies with those alligators nipping at their ankles, while also preventing the alligators from even getting near them in the first place?”

The answer resides in one of NFI’s brain trusts — our Science and Technology team, comprising Bob Collette, VP of science and technology, and Barbara Blakistone, Ph.D., director of technical and regulatory affairs. Bob and Barbara help companies through the regulatory maze that can impact their businesses.

“Nothing satisfies me more than when a member calls me in the morning with a challenge and we work together to solve that problem by day’s end,” says Collette.

As an example, NFI recently helped a mid-sized member in the Northwest with an immediate border-transfer challenge. The company reported that the Food and Drug Administration was holding a shipment of groundfish for an undetermined period of time, which would result in a significant financial loss if not corrected immediately. Bob and Barbara worked closely with FDA officials to get the fish through the system quickly. This cut delays and extra costs for the company.

NFI also lent support to a New England member in the lobster market who posed a question about the legality of selling lobster tails shell-on and shell-off. NFI tracked down these retail requirements in each New England state. We found out which states allow lobster tails without a shell in the retail sector and which ones ban them. Though this issue seemed unique to one company, a surprising number of members also expressed interest when the outcome was reported in NFI’s “Insider,” an e-mailed newsletter.

And, by using her professional contacts, Barbara helped a small Southern company. The member was expanding and needed to identify salary information. A couple of Barbara’s conversations with former colleagues yielded the information, in addition to material on specialized chefs and good hiring practices.

Bob and Barbara are well qualified to handle technical calls as well as regulatory issues. A West Coast processor recently called seeking a way to ensure that its smoked fish products consistently meet FDA safety standards. Bob provided the processor with some suggestions on how to adjust technical operations and quickly test the results of the process.

These immediate successes are only part of the equation at NFI. Communication with the FDA and other government entities over the long term is also a top priority.

NFI is proactively surveying our membership about concerns on HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) regulations. We will share comments with the FDA as the agency revises the guidance document used for seafood HACCP — Fish and Fishery Product Hazards and Controls Guidance. The industry review and critique of the guidance document will help us show the FDA how best to regulate our industry’s products.

Striking a balance between appropriate regulation and practicality for our members is what we advocate to the federal government.

We look forward to working with you to meet the needs of your business and those of your customers.

 August 2005 - SeaFood Business 

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