At a recent CRITFC-hosted workshop, the Food Safety Modernization Act was presented. This legislation could possibly impact tribal sales of fish sold directly to the public. Attorneys and staff are investigating whether this new federal law dictates regulations that Indian fishers would be subject to. The tribes are working to schedule consultation with the Food and Drug Administration on the implementation of this new law. They hope to get ahead of this by exploring ways to enhance their sovereignty over the processing of food products that are sold to the public. The goal is to not only support our fishers but to provide the public with safe, wholesome fish while protecting tribal sovereignty. The tribes have been clear in their dedication to promoting food safety. They directed CRITFC to work with fishers to incorporate quality handling techniques into the processing of the treaty catch. Over 350 fishers have voluntarily taken HACCP food safety classes, representing over 5,000 hours of instruction. Incorporating food quality handling techniques into the processing of the treaty catch is paying off:
- The quality of the treaty catch is recognized by wholesalers and consumers, creating greater demand.
- Despite the economic downturn of the past five years, the prices Indian fishers receive for tribal-caught salmon actually increased.
- Tribal-caught salmon can now be found in local, regional, and national markets, including top supermarkets and restaurants. Last year, Indian fishers provided over one million servings of salmon to consumers.
This increased level of visibility also comes with higher expectations from the public. Food safety awareness has greatly increased over the last few years as the public wants to ensure food is processed in a safe manner and in accordance with a regulatory framework. We want to make sure that any food safety regulations tribal members are subject to come from their own tribe.