Not so clean cut: why WDC is right to bellyache about Norwegian whale meat!
Further to our recent story that a consignment of around 60 tons of Norwegian minke whale meat was given away to local needy people, comes the news that the company responsible, Myklebust Hvalprodukter (Myklebust Whale Products) – one of the country’s largest whale meat processors and exporters – remains under special measures following concerns relating to hygiene deficiencies at their premises.
Inspections last year by Mattilsynet, the Norwegian Food Safety Authorities (FSA), revealed a number of hygiene violations which could threaten food safety standards. The FSA’s audit flagged up shortcomings in the maintenance of Myklebust’s premises and specifically raised red flags around separating ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ zones; ensuring the adequate sterilisation of knives, and ensuring that pests could not access the production facilities via outdoor areas. The FSA also demanded an improvement in the company’s labelling of its whale meat, along with developing a protocol for microbiological sampling of raw materials, finished products and other environmental samples, in accordance with relevant regulations. Whilst the company has now implemented some of the required improvements, other measures are still outstanding and the FSA has, therefore, extended the deadline for compliance to April 2017.
These revelations cast a rather different light on last month’s donation, which is now looking suspiciously like a matter of expediency – offloading whale meat onto an unsuspecting and vulnerable community – as well as a useful marketing exercise. This is also by no means the first time that Norwegian whale meat has proved to be somewhat less than appetising:
• In 2003, two toxicology studies revealed Norwegian minke whale products (muscle tissue) exceeded permitted mercury levels, prompting the FSA to advise pregnant and nursing women not to consume whale meat.
• In 2009, Japan’s Ministry of Health rejected imported Norwegian minke whale meat due to bacterial contamination.
• In 2015, Norwegian whale meat was dumped by Japan after routine safety tests discovered that it contained up to twice the permitted level of three potentially dangerous pesticides: aldrin, dieldrin and chlordane.
We recently produced a flyer asking visitors to Norway to avoid eating whale meat which is widely available in restaurants, fish markets and aboard cruise ships. We also urge tourists not to be tempted to purchase any products containing whale to take home with them, including products such as whale salami. This product not only sounds revolting but is illegal to import it into the vast majority of countries, yet has increasingly been seized at both sea- and airports.