Port health officials at Felixstowe have taken part in an international crackdown on contaminated and sub-standard fish and seafoods.

Experts from Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA) checked cargoes of prawns, squid, tuna and other species for irradiation and traces of nitrates and nitrites - and looked for undeclared species.

The operation - called OPSON XI - was part of a joint effort by Interpol and Europol to analyse at-risk food and drink based on intelligence from the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) – part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

More than 400 checks across the UK were carried out as part of the operation - mainly on  fish, seafood and alcoholic drinks.

SCPHA sampled 14 tuna, prawn and squid products imported to the port. Most of the checked items were given a clean bill of health - but the Felixstowe team did find an undeclared swordtip squid mixed in with Indian Ocean squid.

"If a species isn’t certified, there’s no health certification to guarantee how it was caught, handled, packaged, stored and transported, including whether it’s hygienic, free of residues and kept at the required temperature. This lack of traceability can also be a result of illegal fishing," explained Simon Rowell, technical lead for products of animal origin at SCPHA.

"Targeted food surveillance is always changing based on intelligence, and we’re committed to doing our part as one of the UK’s largest port health authorities.”

The authority has taken part in the yearly Operation OPSON since 2017. This year the teams focused on traces of nitrates and nitrites, irradiation and undeclared species as areas of concern, he said.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Giles Chapman, head of analysis at the Food Standard Agency’s National Food Crime Unit, said: “We worked in partnership with Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority on Operation Opson, this year targeting illegal seafood.

“Nationally over 400 checks have been completed under OPSON XI, through sampling and other approaches. While the results of this year’s operation have not identified high levels of serious fraudulent activity, we remain vigilant to wider threats of food fraud.

"Along with Food Standards Scotland, we’ll continue working in partnership with councils, port health authorities and organisations like Europol to protect consumers from unsafe or inauthentic food and drink.”

East Anglian Daily Times: