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Maintenance and operation of a vessel


Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), a person who handles fish in a conveyance and a person who prepares (manufactures , processes, treats, preserves, packages, and/or labels fish for inter-provincial trade or for export, must maintain and operate the establishment, where these activities are conducted in accordance to sections 50 to 81 of the SFCR.

What is an establishment?

An establishment, as defined in the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), means any place, including a conveyance, where a food commodity is manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged or labelled.

What is a conveyance?

A conveyance, as defined in the SFCA, means a vessel, aircraft, train, motor vehicle, trailer or other means of transportation, including a cargo container.

Keep in mind!

The SFCR specifies the outcome that must be met without prescribing how to achieve the outcome. Consult the guidance available on the preventive controls for food businesses webpage for more information on preventive controls.


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) created this document as guidance to help food businesses comply with the requirements set out in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

Maintenance and operation of a vessel

The following sections provide information on control measures that can help a fisher maintain and operate a vessel in accordance to the SFCR preventive control requirements on the maintenance and operation of an establishment:

Design, construction and maintenance of the vessel (section 57 of the SFCR)

Surfaces that are made of absorbent or porous materials (such as wood) and that have joints or crevices can become saturated with sludge, slime and blood that can harbour spoilage bacteria and food pathogens. Surfaces that are made of corrodible materials and/or coated with a substance can also peel or shed particles (such as metal flakes, paint or epoxy chips). These types of surfaces are hard to clean and present a risk of contamination to your fish and the water, ice, ingredients and other materials that you use.

The layout and design of a vessel, such as the location of the doors, windows, lighting, drains, equipment, sanitary stations, the areas where fish is held, prepared, and stored, and how they are built, is also important in protecting the fish from sources of contamination such as bilge water, pests and fuel.

The vessel where you prepare, package, label and store fish has to be suitable for your operation, can be cleaned, sanitized and maintained in good repair. For example:

Vessels constructed prior to 1982:

Conveyances and equipment (sections 53 and 54 of the SFCR)

As with the vessel, the materials and design of the equipment you use to prepare and handle fish, ice, water and ingredients can be a source of contamination. Equipment that’s not suitable for use, or that’s used improperly, can damage the fish and expose it to sources of contamination. Damage to the fish can also cause bruising and discoloration of the flesh, and damage to the spine can cause the muscle to separate. This damage can deteriorate the quality of the fish and reduce its shelf life.

The equipment you use to handle, prepare, package and/or label fish is suitable for the intended use, functions as intended, can be cleaned, sanitized and maintained in good repair. For example:

Cleaning and sanitation (sections 50 SFCR)

Surfaces and equipment that are filthy with substances such as dirt, slime, viscera, blood, debris, waste water and used ice can be contaminated with food pathogens, foreign matter and can attract pests. Unsanitary conditions present a risk of contamination to the fish, water, ice, ingredients and packaging materials.

You maintain the areas and surfaces where fish is unloaded, handled, held, prepared and stored, as well as the areas where the equipment, packaging and ingredients are stored, in a sanitary condition. For example:

Find out which cleaners and sanitizers were assessed as suitable for use by Health Canada in the Reference Listing of Accepted Construction Materials, Packaging Materials and Non-Food Chemical Products Database.

Learn more by reading the Cleaning and sanitation program document.

Pest Control (sections 51 SFCR)

Pests are a risk of contamination to the fish, water, ice, ingredients and packaging materials. You prevent pests by:

Learn more by reading the pest control document.

Sanitizers and nonfood chemical agents (sections 52 SFCR)

Cleaning and sanitizing solutions and other nonfood chemical agents can present a risk of contamination if they are not suitable for use or come in contact with the fish. You ensure that cleaning detergents, disinfection agents and other nonfood chemical agents are:

Movement of persons and things (section 59 of the SFCR)

The movement of persons, equipment and materials such as lubricants, gasoline, cleaning and sanitation supplies in a vessel can be a source of contamination to the fish, water and ice. You protect the fish from contamination by:

Lighting (section 63, 64 and 65 of the SFCR)

Adequate lighting helps ensure that you conduct your activities properly and effectively. The placement and intensity of the lighting available, in the areas where you conduct your activities, is suitable for your operation. For example, the lighting available allows you to:

Light fixtures can be made of materials that present a risk of contamination to your fish if broken. You make sure that the light fixtures in the vessel are suitable for your operation. For example, the light fixtures:

Removal and disposal of contaminated materials and waste (section 66 of the SFCR)

Waste, such as garbage, discarded packaging, broken pallets, discarded construction materials, and inedible products or food waste are a source of contamination. You handle, store and dispose of waste in a manner that prevents the contamination of the fish. For example:

Hand cleaning, sanitizing stations and lavatories (section 67 of the SFCR)

Poor hygienic practices can result in the contamination of the fish. The vessel has the necessary sanitary facilities for employees to maintain personal cleanliness. For example:

Supply of water, steam and ice (sections 70 and 71 of the SFCR)

The ice used to protect fish from spoilage and the water used to wash the fish or clean and sanitize surfaces and equipment can present a source of contamination. You ensure that:

For information on the suitability of water for use consult the document Water for use in the preparation of food.

Storing (section 74 of the SFCR)

The surrounding temperature has a significant effect on the safety, quality and shelf life of fish. It can increase the rate of growth of spoilage bacteria commonly present on the surface and in the gut of fish. These spoilage bacteria can produce high levels of histamine in susceptible fish species. The following are examples of storage temperatures and the number of days fish can be stored at those temperatures before spoilage becomes noticeable:

Pathogens can also increase to unsafe levels during storage. For example, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) when present in shellfish, such as live oysters, can grow at a temperature of 5°C or higher and double in numbers in less than 2 hours at a temperature of 25°C.

You protect the fish from damage, spoilage and contamination during storage by:

The equipment, sanitizers, non-food chemical agents, ingredients, packaging material and labels you use and the products needed to maintain and run the vessel such as oil, gasoline and lubricants also have to be stored in a manner that does not present a risk of contamination of the food. For example, you store:

Note: The materials used to package your fish such as boxes, plastic films, nettings, trays and pouches have to be suitable for the intended use. For example, boxes are made of smooth, non-absorbent, non-corrodible material, free from cracks and crevices, provide drainage and protect the fish from damage by crushing.

Personnel competencies (section 75 of the SFCR)

Your personnel have the competencies and qualifications necessary to carry out the tasks and duties assigned to them.

You ensure your personnel are trained by:

Hygiene (section 75 to 81 of the SFCR)

Personnel on the vessel can present a risk of contamination to the fish if they do not apply good hygiene practices. You ensure that the employees:

Tell me more! Further reading

The following references contain information that helps explain food safety controls, demonstrates how to develop them, and provides examples. The CFIA is not responsible for the content of documents that are created by other government agencies or international sources.

CFIA references

Other references

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