Food Safety Authority announces crackdown on illegal export of ‘production fish’

Editorial Staff

Reports of illegal trading of ‘production fish’ persist, says the Norwegian Food Safety Authority as it prepares to escalate enforcement actions in light of increasing European dissatisfaction with the matter. 

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority is intensifying its enforcement efforts against individuals and businesses involved in the illegal export of ‘production fish’ abroad.

In a press release on Wednesday, Inge Erlend Næsset, the department director for regulations and control at the authority, emphasized the seriousness of the violation and stated that the authority is prepared to stronger measures against offenders.

Production fish are farmed fish with wounds, deformities and processing errors.

Inge Erlend Næsset, director of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s regulations and control department. Photo: Norwegian Food Safety Authority

Under Norwegian law, such fish cannot be sold for human consumption until corrected via the domestic processing industry.

This has two aims, firstly, the retention of valuable processing jobs in Norway, and secondly, protecting the reputation of Norwegian seafood by having only the best quality fish exported whole abroad.

When transporting production fish, the packaging must be clearly marked “For domestic production only”.

“The fact that some people choose to break the regulations also creates different competitive conditions for the business players,” noted the authority, echoing complaints made last week by the Danish Seafood Association.

Illegal export of production fish distorting EU market says Danish Seafood Association

The proportion of production fish in the market has steadily risen from 5% in 2018 to 15% in 2023, reaching over 36% in certain weeks. This has led to complaints from producers of a lack of capacity.

Næsset asserts that this situation was foreseeable and expects the industry to adapt its practices accordingly in future.

“We expect all businesses to follow the rules on domestic rectification of production fish. Nevertheless, our inspection campaign last year showed that there are too many players who break the regulations, and we are now constantly receiving reports that this is still happening,” said Næsset.

To combat this issue, the authority plans to employ escalating measures, including export and sales bans, market withdrawal orders, and potential legal action.

Every day, between 150 and 200 trailers are loaded with farmed salmon, which either drive the load to EU countries or deliver it at a boat or air terminal, according to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority which says it is not able to check every container.

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“In light of the significant attention drawn to this issue, we assume that all businesses are now aware of the applicable requirements. Consequently, we are intensifying our enforcement efforts against those who persist in violating the rules,” said Næsset.

Examples of these enforcement measures include export and sales bans, market withdrawal orders, as well as actions such as destruction, disposal, or confiscation of illegal products. Additionally, in cases where warranted, we will not hesitate to involve law enforcement authorities.

“Our objective is to put an end to these illegal practices, thereby ensuring a level playing field for all business operators. This will uphold the integrity of our quality regulations, ensuring high-quality products for consumers and facilitating international market access for Norwegian seafood,” concluded Næsset.


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