When do you need Seafood HACCP certification?

Fish processing regulations in Michigan require this specialized training for specific products.

Fish processing plant being inspected by a food inspector who is standing by a machine wearing safety mask and white coat and holding a clipboard.
A food inspector reviews machinery at a fish processing plant. Photo: Lauren Jescovitch, Karla Horne, and Massey Fish Company

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant’s Seafood Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification course was canceled in 2020. However, we hope this resource can provide a useful guide to the common questions that have been encountered as a fish processor in the state of Michigan.

What do you need to do to get started as a fish processor in Michigan?

It is important to reach out and connect with regulators early in the process. Having a clear line of communication and understanding of what you are doing and what the regulators expect with your business will help limit issues as you close in on your final product and/or during routine inspections. For the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) regulates food processing.

An important step is to determine if your product(s) will be sold to a direct or wholesale market. A direct market is when you sell directly to a consumer. A wholesale market is when you sell to another company (e.g., grocery store, distributor, institution) who will then sell the product to either another company or the end-user consumer. If you only conduct wholesale activities you will not have any direct contact with the consumer. The determination of market channels will dictate which regulations your product will fall under. It is also important to note that each end product (e.g., dressed, smoked, fish dip) needs to be evaluated separately. If the product is sold to both direct and wholesale markets, then the product will be regulated under wholesale regulations, or Seafood HACCP rather than the Michigan food code. However, a direct market product could have a HACCP plan, however, this may add potential for more regulatory infractions as you will be held to following your HACCP plan in addition to the state regulations.

What are the Michigan food laws for fish?

As a fish processor, it is your responsibility to be aware of the current regulations and their requirements. Here is a chart for you to find what regulations you need to refer to and where to find them to find the most up-to-date information.

  1. Who is the fish or fishery product sold to?

    1. Direct market (directly to end-use/consumer) …………………………....Go to #2
    2. Wholesale market (intended for resale; e.g., grocery stores, restaurants)...Go to #4
    3. Not a food product…………………………...not regulated under food regulations, if sold for animal feed please contact MDARD at MDARD-AnimalFeed@michigan.gov 
  2.  Is the fish or fishery product a smoked product sold only to the end user consumer?

    1. Yes - hot smoking……………………..Use Michigan Smoke Fish Regulation 569
    2. Yes - cold smoking……………………Variance Required under the Michigan
    3.     Modified Food Code*
    4. No……………………………………………..…………………………..Go to #3
  3.  Is the direct market fish or fishery product an acidified (i.e., pickled) product?

    1. Yes………………..Variance Required under the Michigan Modified Food Code*
    2. No……………………………………………..Use Michigan Modified Food Code
  4.  Is the wholesale fish or fishery product an acidified (i.e., pickled) product?

    1. Yes…………………………………………………..21 CFR 113 and 21 CFR 114
    2. Yes or No…....21 CFR 117 (A, B, F), 21 CFR 123, 21 CFR 1 (O), and 21 CFR 21

      *A variance is an evidence-based evaluation of a food product that can amend the food code for product properties such as extended shelf life, less salt, food additives, etc.

Michigan food codes

Here are the food codes and where to find them online:

  1. 21 CFR part 113 - Thermally Processed Low-Acid Foods Packaged in Hermetically Sealed Containers
  2. 21 CFR part 114 - Acidified Foods
  3. 21 CFR part 117 - Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food
  4. 21 CFR part 123 - Fish and Fishery Products
  5. 21 CFR 1 subpart O - Sanitary Transport Rule
  6. 21 CFR 21 - Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration
  7. Michigan Modified Food Code
  8. Michigan Smoked Fish Regulation

What is Seafood HACCP (aka: 21 CFR 123)?

Seafood HACCP is the recommended training by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for fish and fishery products. The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) website provides the most up-to-date information on Seafood HACCP training and courses offered. Seafood HACCP is offered as a two-segment course which is generally given over 3 days. The course is generally organized similar to the following outline:






Orientation and Introduction



Prerequisite Programs - Programs that need to be in place before implementation of a HACCP program



Seafood Safety Hazards



Preliminary Steps - Steps that must be completed before applying HACCP principles



Conducting a Hazards Analysis



Determining Critical Control Points




Establishing Critical Limits



Critical Control Points Monitoring



Corrective Actions



Establish Verification Procedures



Record-Keeping Procedures




Overview of FDA Seafood on HACCP Regulation



Resources for Preparing HACCP Plans



Review and Introduction of Practical Work Session



Group Work Sessions on Developing HACCP Plans



Group Presentations



Review, Q&A, and Adjourn

The overall goal of HACCP is to orient you and help you learn how to use the Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls guide during training to develop your individualized HACCP plan. The course is not designed to create a HACCP plan for you. As everyone’s products and processes are different, this course will provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to meet federal regulatory requirements.

Here is a summary table highlighting the specific differences between retail and wholesale seafood regulations in Michigan (provided by Karla Horne, MDARD)







May be utilized, but must be followed

Training Requirements

Seafood HACCP Certification & training of employee


(Recommend HACCP)


If ROP, Critical Control Point must be identified


(with record keeping)

Water-Phase Salt

3.5% (if ROP)


Acidified/Low-acid Canned foods (Pickling)

Requires additional Regs: 21 CFR 113, 21 CFR 114

Variance Required

Smoking, Hot

145℉ for 30 minutes

145℉ for 30 minutes

Smoking, Cold


Variance Required

Application of Smoke

Before Pellicle Formation

Before Pellicle Formation

Finished Product Holding Temperature



Reduced Oxygen Packaging (ROP)


Variance Required


Safe Harbor or Challenge Study

14 days

Shelf-life, value added products

Smoked fish date, or ingredient with the shortest shelf life

7 days

(without a variance)


Michigan Food Establishments Building Guidelines

This is a template document tailored to your company that you will receive if you were to start the process in planning for a processing business in Michigan:

The following is a general guideline of physical requirements for a food processing business.  Copy of the Michigan Food Law, Act 92, and the 21 CFR Part 117 can be obtained from the Department's website (www.michigan.gov/mdard). A voluntary plan review is offered by our Department and the workbook is available from the Lansing Office or the Department's website. Plan reviews are mandatory for businesses that provide food for immediate consumption and seating for customers. Additional information is available on the Department's web site: www.michigan.gov/mdard.

Proposed establishment operation requirements:

  1. Floor must be smooth and easily cleanable. Acceptable materials include sealed cement, commercial grade vinyl tile or equivalent. Carpeting is not allowed in food processing or storage areas.
  2. Walls and ceiling must be smooth, easily cleanable and non-absorbent. In food processing areas, acceptable materials include fiberglass board panels, ceramic tile, commercial grade formica, vinyl coated ceiling tiles or equivalent. In other areas, high gloss epoxy paint is acceptable.
  3. All lights in food processing, display cases, or, where open food is handled must be shielded or have safety type bulbs.
  4. A 3 compartment utensil washing sink, with at least one drainboard (for air drying equipment) or equivalent for small parts is required. The sink bays must be adequate in size to immerse the largest piece of equipment for washing. A separate hand sink is required in food processing, warewashing and service counter areas. A mop sink is required in the building (not in the food processing area). All sinks must have hot and cold running water. Hand sinks must have soap, paper towels and signage.
  5. Preparation/processing tables must be stainless steel, plastic laminate or equivalent. Wood is not acceptable, except for a hard wood bakers table for bakery products.
  6. Accurate, working thermometers are required in all hot and cold food cases, coolers and freezers.
  7. Toilet facilities must include: be fully enclosed, be power vented to outside air, have a self-closer on door, have single service paper towels or hot air dryer, have liquid hand soap and covered wastebasket. They cannot open in the food processing area. Hooks or lockers must be supplied for employee clothing - these cannot be in the toilet room. The Plumbing Code requires Retail Food Establishments to have public restrooms.
  8. Ventilation for cooking equipment and equipment that produce steam or debris (ovens, fryers, broasters, stoves, etc.) - approval obtained from a mechanical inspector.
  9. It is the business owner's responsibility to meet all local and state building code requirements, including electrical, plumbing, mechanical and building.
  10. If a facility is on a private well and septic system, they must meet state Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Department requirements for process water. Approval of well and septic systems by the Local Health Department must be obtained for domestic equivalent wastewater, in addition to acceptable water test results for coliforms and partial chemistry, are required prior to licensure.
  11. If the proposed facility is to be a home-based business, all equipment and processing must be done in a room used only for that purpose. All equipment, sinks, storage, etc. must be physically separated from personal items. All of the above listed requirements must be met. Approval from local township/city/county zoning department is required along with compliance with all other applicable laws.

What are some of the most common violations seen during inspections?

Per discussions with MDARD inspectors, here is a list of some of the most common violations seen during inspections at fish processing plants:

  1. Not adequately monitoring the 8-key Areas of Sanitation
  2. Not having adequate records and/or verification of activities
    1. Real time updates
    2. Monitoring records for Critical Control Points reviewed in 7 days
    3. Records for calibration of equipment at least yearly (includes test for water phase salt annual per species)
  3. Not identifying Hazards reasonably likely to occur in Hazard Analysis and/or HACCP Plan
  4. Not having a HACCP plan for product under production
  5. Not implementing HACCP plan as written

For violations related to numbers 1 and 2 above, AFDO also offers a certification for Sanitation Control Procedures (SCP) for Processing Fish and Fishery Products. However, this is in addition to the 3-day HACCP course above and requires an additional day of training for completion of this additional (but optional) certification.

Michigan Sea Grant will continue to reach out to Michigan fish producers, but if you have immediate needs or questions, please contact Dr. Lauren Jescovitch at jescovit@msu.edu or call 906-487-2974.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research, and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs.

This article was prepared by Extension educator Lauren N. Jescovitch under award NA180AR4170102 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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