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NEA bans use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes

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

NEA bans use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes

File photo of raw fish served with congee. Photo: Channel NewsAsia

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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