Strict standards in place to ensure fish are safe to eat: Supermarkets

Efforts have also been stepped up to educate consumers on what can be eaten raw, added local supermarkets.
Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 7 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: NTUC FairPrice outlets have seen a 10 per cent drop in sales of freshwater fish. This comes after a ban on serving them raw kicked in last week, following concerns that eating raw fish could lead to Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection.

However, supermarkets on Monday (Dec 7) said strict standards are in place to ensure that fish are safe to eat, and they have stepped up efforts to educate consumers on what can be eaten raw.

NTUC FairPrice said it has begun putting up advisories on fresh seafood beds and chillers, explaining that the seafood there should be cooked before consumption.

"Customers are also able to know the name of the fish by looking at the price cards, which indicate relevant information displayed at fish beds. Seafood for raw consumption sold at the ready-to-eat counters such as sushi is also sourced from AVA-licensed and reputable suppliers that supply 'sashimi-grade' seafood," said an NTUC FairPrice spokesperson.

"Our Food Safety Management System complies with the ISO 22000:2005 international standard, which is a more stringent food safety assurance scheme than the current food safety standards required by the authorities," added the spokesperson.

Giant and Cold Storage are also preparing to display similar notices. They said additional inspections have been in place since GBS cases surged earlier this year.

These include submitting fish samples to the National Environment Agency to show they are free from GBS and other pathogens.

"Aside from this, ready-to-eat fish on sale are differentiated by labels to indicate 'sashimi-grade'. We will also advise customers to keep products in chilled storage at less than 5 degrees Celsius after purchase," said a spokesperson of the Dairy Farm Group, which owns the two chains.

Commonwealth Capital, which owns local fish supplier Kuhlbarra, said sales of its barramundi and salmon to restaurants and individuals have not been significantly affected by the scare.

It said both types of fish could be classified as either saltwater or freshwater, which might lead to some consumer confusion. However, it added that when it comes to raw food preparation, one's skill and care at food handling mattered more than the species of the fish.

"Some of these species of fish, for example salmon, barramundi and even tilapia, can thrive in both conditions," said Commonwealth Capital's group managing director, Andrew Kwan. "I don't think it's about the species of the fish per se, I think it's all about really controlling the cold chain process. If that is not compromised, generally speaking, the fish can be taken raw in the case of salmon or even barramundi."

Mr Kwan added: "The challenge is really in the preparation of the raw fish at home. So unless you are a trained chef and take particular care to make sure that there's no cross-contamination, even with the knives used to prepare a raw fish, we generally would not recommend (it)."

- CNA/xk