Four important issues will stimulate the use and implementation of QIM and the development of other quality standards in the whole fishery chain.
Selling fish via auctions and through the Internet
In certain European countries, (Iceland), remote trade of fish has existed for years. In Iceland, remote auctions are in operation and home-buying is becoming increasingly important. The market has mostly been a "sellers" market and the demand for information concerning quality has often been limited. In other parts of Europe, such trade is becoming more and more common. One of the problems of buying fish unseen is that the buyers lack information concerning the freshness of the fish. Using the same method in Europe for quality/fresh-ness evaluation of whole fish will facilitate the trade of fish. Commerce via the Internet will increase and computerised information on the freshness of fish will be a necessity.
Quality assurance systems
Quality assurance systems require monitoring of parameters that might be critical throughout the production chain. The processing of fish may affect the quality of the ultimate fish products and must be critically monitored. Development of so-called 'processing-indices' may contribute to the quality of the whole chain.
Retailers - Consumers
Consumer acceptance of fish is related to freshness. Consumers might not be able to detect all the fresh-ness/spoilage stages of fish when preparing their meal but some of the fishy odours formed during storage are usually not appealing to the consumers. In some countries, consumers more often have fish served in a restaurant than at home. The demand for freshness or information concerning the freshness stage will come from retailers. Most of the fish is now sold at supermarkets instead of in the old fishmonger's shops. The supermarkets are already demanding information on freshness of fish and fish-products from their suppliers, even though this information is not stated on the packages in the supermarket.
To ensure traceability and labelling it is a prerequisite to have methods to measure and verify the quality at certain stages in the whole chain. The White Paper sets out a radical reform plan: a major programme of legislative reform is proposed to complete the EC's "farm to table" approach as well as the establishment of a new European Food. One of the key words in the White paper is traceability throughout the whole food chain. The QIM method is a tool to fulfil the requirements mentioned in the "White Book" of the Commission regarding monitoring safety and wholesomeness of fish and food products and to ensure the traceability in the fish sector. Development of other quality indices (Catch-index, Processing-index) may further contribute to the traceability and labelling of fish products.
How to implement
Implementation of QIM across Europe was discussed in the EU Concerted Action FAIR PL98-4174 'Fish Quality Labelling and Monitoring' published by Wageningen Academic Publishers in 2003.