Table 1

Commonly observed production activities and sources of occupational exposure to seafood products in the fish processing industry of the Western Cape province of South Africa

Production activityMain fish typeDescription of processing stepsSources of occupational exposure to seafood product(s)
Fish canningPilchard (Sardinops ocellata)
  • Fish pumped from holding tanks to sorting tables

  • Fish hooked and aligned manually on conveyor belt

  • Moves through autopacker for decapitation and degutting before inserted into cans

  • Steamed in exhaust box oven

  • Drainer removes excess water by tipping cans

  • Tomato based sauce and spices added

  • Cans sealed, autoclaved, labelled, and packaged

  • Inhalation of wet aerosols during degutting and cooking/boiling

  • Skin contact from unprotected handling of various fish and fish juice

Fish filletingHake (Merluccius capensis, M paradoxus)
  • Small plants: mainly manual cutting and degutting

  • Large plants: fully automated machines performing degutting, heading, skinning, filleting, grading, and trimming to specific sizes

  • Cryogenic technology used to freeze fish fillet

  • Phosphates added when frozen and stored

  • Inhalation of wet aerosols during degutting and heading

  • Skin contact from unprotected handling of various fish and fish juice

Fishmeal productionAnchovy (Engraulis capensis) Pilchard offal
  • Fish stored in pits, formalin added to stabilise fish

  • Fish transferred from pits by hoppers

  • Cookers boil the fish in an enclosed process

  • Mixture transported to pressers and de-sludger which separates liquid from solid fraction

  • Conveyed to dryers at high temperatures

  • Passes through hammer mills forming finer particles

  • Fine powder blown onto hopper using industrial fans

  • Hoppers transfer product to bagging section where fishmeal poured into Hessian bags (semi-automated)

  • Spilled fishmeal manually swept, shovelled, and tipped into bags

  • Inhalation of formalin, hydrogen sulphide gas from decomposing fish in pits

  • Inhalation of dry dust aerosols during fishmeal bagging