Raw-fish ban: Probes take time, have to be thorough

Today Online 12 Dec 15;

We refer to the letter “Raw-fish: Why long gap between health advisory and sales ban?” (Dec 1).

On July 24, the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) issued a joint advisory on the possible link between consuming raw fish and Group B streptococcus.

The advisory stated that while there was no proven link between eating raw fish and serious Group B streptococcus disease in humans to date, government agencies had been studying the possible causes, including the possible link to raw fish consumption.

During that time, field investigations in various locations, including sources and distribution chains, were being conducted. These investigations take time and must be conducted thoroughly.

As a precautionary measure, an advisory was issued to food shops and stallholders to temporarily stop the sale of ready-to-eat raw fish dishes using Song fish and Toman fish.

Once the findings had been established, all food stalls or shops selling these Chinese-style dishes were instructed to stop the sale of all types of ready-to-eat raw fish until they can comply with the practices required for the sale. Subsequently, to enhance consumers’ level of protection against health risks, we banned the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes, with effect from Dec 5. Those intending to sell these dishes, including yusheng dishes, are to henceforth use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

Furthermore, food stalls and food establishments providing catering services must submit proof to the NEA that they can comply with the requirements for ready-to-eat raw fish dishes before they can resume the sale of these dishes, using saltwater fish.

Restaurants can continue selling these dishes using saltwater fish, but will be required to meet the same stringent standards.

Raw-fish: Why long gap between health advisory and sales ban?
NG YONG DA Today Online 1 Dec 15;

I refer to the report “Bacteria outbreak: Stalls told to stop selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes” (Nov 28).

In July this year, the Ministry of Health said there had not been any proven link between eating fish, raw or otherwise, and infection by Group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria (“MOH investigating increase in Group B streptococcus infections”; July 13, online).

Now, it is stopping food stalls from selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes and telling people not to eat such food after its investigations found a definite link between eating these dishes and the GBS infection, which can cause permanent disability and even death in severe cases.

Is this not a bit late, even if the National Environment Agency had issued an advisory later in July to ask food stalls to temporarily stop the sale of raw-fish dishes made from Song fish and Toman fish?