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

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

Derek Ho, Director-General, Public Health, NEA, Paul Chiew, Group Director (Laboratories Group), AVA and Jeffery Cutter, Director, Communicable Diseases Division, MOH

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.

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