Freshwater fish banned in ready-to-eat raw fish dishes

AVA and NEA tests found freshwater fish to contain higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish. All retail food establishments that wish to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes are to use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption, says NEA.
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 5 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Agri-Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Saturday (Dec 5) announced that the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes will be banned with immediate effect.

NEA said tests by AVA and NEA showed that freshwater fish have "significantly higher" bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw.

It added that effective immediately, all retail food establishments that wish to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes are to use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

According to the authorities, such fish are usually bred or harvested from cleaner waters and stored and distributed according to "appropriate cold chain management practices".

MOH, AVA and NEA said the ban is in place to help protect consumers and "give greater peace of mind" to the public, ahead of Chinese New Year.

This comes after a spike in Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections reported in June, where some patients fell ill after consuming yusheng, a raw fish dish typically eaten with congee.

NEA on Nov 27 also issued an advisory for the sale and consumption of raw fish dishes after further investigations into the increase of infections.

WORKING WITH INDUSTRIES ON COMPLIANCE

MOH, AVA and NEA added that food stalls in hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens and food courts, as well as food establishments providing catering services are required to stop the sale of all ready-to-eat raw fish fishes using saltwater fish until they can comply with the practices required for such dishes.

NEA said it would issue notices to retail food establishments to inform them of the ban on the use of freshwater fish for ready-to-eat raw fish dishes.

AVA and NEA added that it would conduct engagement sessions "over the next few weeks" to help fish suppliers and retail food establishments understand the requirements for the sale of fish intended for raw consumption.

Restaurant operators, on the other hand, can sell ready-to-eat raw saltwater fish dishes, if they comply with the practices required for such dishes, NEA said. It noted that restaurant operators "generally observe proper cold chain and food handling management in their food preparation, and the fish used in their ready-to-eat raw fish dishes is also typically sourced from suppliers of fish intended for raw consumption."

"NEA's surveillance data indicate that such fish sampled from restaurants have low levels of overall bacterial contamination," it said.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

NEA emphasised that members of the public should not consume raw freshwater fish. If they wish to eat raw fish, they should only consume saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

It added that most fish sold at Singapore's wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets and fishery ports do not meet the appropriate cold chain management practices and should not be eaten raw.

Vulnerable groups of people, including young children, pregnant women, the elderly or people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes should avoid consuming all types of raw fish as well, NEA, AVA and MOH cautioned, adding that cooking fish is still the most effective way to kill bacteria.

In the first half of the year, the number of GBS cases at hospitals rose from an average of 150 a year in the past four years to 238 a year. In July, with some samples of raw fish found to contain GBS bacteria, the NEA advised stallholders to temporarily stop selling raw fish dishes using Song and Toman fish.

- CNA/dl

NEA bans freshwater fish from ready-to-eat raw fish dishes
AsiaOne 5 Dec 15;

Raw fish porridge falls out of favour after GBS cases
SINGAPORE - The use of freshwater fish has been banned with immediate effect in all ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes sold by retail food establishments.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement on Dec 5 that tests conducted by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and NEA found that such fish had significantly higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw.

"The ban will help protect consumers and give greater peace of mind to the public, especially during the upcoming Chinese New Year season when consumption of raw fish in yusheng dishes is expected to increase", NEA added.

All retail food establishments that wish to sell RTE raw fish dishes, such as yusheng dishes, can use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption which are typically bred or harvested from cleaner waters, and stored and distributed according to appropriate cold chain management practices.

These fish must also be handled hygienically throughout the supply chain and kept separate from other fish intended for cooking, to avoid cross contamination.

Most fish sold at Singapore's wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets, and fishery ports do not meet these conditions, and should not be eaten raw, said the NEA statement.

NEA will be issuing notices to retail food establishments to inform them of the ban. Food stalls such as hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens, food courts, and food establishments providing catering services are required to stop the sale of all RTE raw fish dishes using saltwater fish until they can comply with the practices required for RTE raw fish dishes.

AVA and NEA will conduct engagement sessions over the next few weeks to help fish suppliers and retail food establishments understand the requirements for sale of fish intended for raw consumption.

Restaurant operators can sell RTE raw fish dishes provided they comply with the practices required for RTE raw fish dishes.

In addition, NEA's surveillance data indicate that such fish sampled from restaurants have low levels of overall bacterial contamination.

NEA will tighten surveillance of all restaurants, and continue to enforce against errant food operators.

While investigations did not detect Type III GBS ST283 - the strain of GBS associated with the recent spike in human cases - in sashimi sold at retail food establishments, members of the public should note that there are always risks involved in consuming raw fish as harmful bacteria and parasites may be present, said NEA
Vulnerable groups of people, such as young children, pregnant women, elderly persons, or people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, should avoid the consumption of raw fish.


NEA bans use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes
Today Online 5 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — The National Environment Agency (NEA) has banned the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes with immediate effect.

Tests conducted by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the NEA have found such fish to have significantly higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw, said a joint press release by the NEA, AVA and Ministry of Health today (Dec 5).

All retail food establishments that wish to sell raw fish dishes, such as yusheng dishes, must only use saltwater fish intended for raw consumption. This refers to fish that are typically bred or harvested from cleaner waters, and stored and distributed according to appropriate cold chain management practices.

These fish must also be handled hygienically throughout the supply chain and kept separate from other fish intended for cooking, to avoid cross contamination.

The statement noted that most fish sold in Singapore’s wet markets, fresh produce section of supermarkets, and fishery ports do not meet these conditions, and should not be eaten raw.

The NEA will be issuing notices to retail food establishments to inform them of the ban.

However, food stalls — hawker centres, coffeeshops, canteens, food courts — and food establishments providing catering services are also required to stop the sale of all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes using saltwater fish until they can comply with the practices required.

Authorities had earlier announced this after investigations found a definite link between eating these dishes and Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection, which can potentially cause permanent disability and even death in severe cases.

The AVA and NEA will conduct engagement sessions over the next few weeks to help fish suppliers and retail food establishments understand the requirements.

Restaurant operators can still continue to sell raw fish dishes provided they comply with the practices required, while the NEA will tighten surveillance and continue to enforce against errant food operators, the statement said.

The AVA and NEA will also work with the industry to meet the expected increased demand for yusheng dishes during the coming Chinese New Year season.

The agency has also advised that vulnerable groups of people, such as young children, pregnant women, elderly persons, or people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, should avoid the consumption of raw fish.

To date, two persons have died from GBS infections this year. One of the cases was not linked to the ongoing outbreak, and the other is being investigated.

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