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Government to review sale and slaughter of live animals at wet markets

SINGAPORE — The Government is reviewing the sale and slaughter of live animals at wet markets here, said Dr Amy Khor, the Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, on Tuesday (May 5).

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, said there have been no cases of animal-to-human disease transmission from live animals at wet market stalls, and the risk is assessed to be low.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, said there have been no cases of animal-to-human disease transmission from live animals at wet market stalls, and the risk is assessed to be low.

SINGAPORE — The Government is reviewing the sale and slaughter of live animals at wet markets here, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, said on Tuesday (May 5). 

The relevant agencies are doing so while taking into consideration international benchmarking and scientific evidence, she added.

Her comments were in response to a parliamentary question from Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency Louis Ng. He asked whether her ministry would consider banning the display, slaughter and sale of wild-caught live soft-shelled turtles at wet markets here owing to the risk of viruses being transmitted from animals to humans.

The Straits Times reported on April 20 that a wet market in Chinatown Complex has been selling live animals, such as soft-shelled turtles, bullfrogs and freshwater eels, which are slaughtered for customers to take home.

The issue of wet markets has become a cause for concern globally as the Covid-19 virus is said to have originated from a live seafood market in Wuhan, China, where creatures such as bats and snakes were sold. It is believed that the coronavirus was first hosted in bats, before being transmitted to humans.

LOW RISK OF DISEASE TRANSMISSION FROM ANIMALS TO HUMANS

In her response, Dr Khor said that the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), National Parks Board and National Environment Agency (NEA) have evaluated the risk of transmission and found no cases of diseases transmitted from animals to humans at the wet market stalls.

“Transmission risks are found to be low, as long as food safety and hygiene standards are maintained. There have been no cases of zoonotic disease transmission from these animals at the wet market stalls,” she said.

NEA has also stopped tendering out wet market stalls for the sale of wild turtles since 2012, said Dr Khor.

But existing wet market stalls are allowed to do so, provided they comply with food safety and hygiene requirements under the Environmental Public Health Act. These include ensuring stall cleanliness and proper storage practices.

She added that SFA has not detected infringements of food safety and hygiene during its regular inspections.

When pressed by Mr Ng on why the Government continues to allow wet market stalls to sell live turtles given the Covid-19 pandemic and even though turtles are not a staple food, Dr Khor said that the vast majority of zoonotic pathogens, especially emerging ones, are associated with mammals and birds rather than reptiles.

This was why Singapore stopped the slaughter of poultry at wet markets in 1992 and centralised it at slaughterhouses instead, she added.

STALLHOLDERS, PATRONS URGED TO OBSERVE HYGIENE STANDARDS AT WET MARKETS

In her response, Dr Khor also urged stall vendors and patrons to observe good hygiene standards at such markets to prevent the spread of foodborne bacteria.

“In general, foodborne bacteria such as salmonella can be found in all live animals and raw meat, and these can be transmitted to people through direct contact or ingestion.

“To prevent foodborne illnesses, both stall vendors and patrons should observe good food safety and hygiene practices, such as the washing of hands with soap and water before and after handling raw meat, and by thoroughly cooking the meat, which helps to kill any harmful bacteria in food,” she said.

Related topics

wet market food safety hygiene NEA transmission

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