Food Stalls to Stop Serving Ready to Eat Raw Fish Food as GBS Infections Spike

Nov 27, 2015 08:55 PM EST | By Florence May P. Jose

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Local Singapore food stalls can no longer serve Chinese style dishes with raw fish in it, authorities said Friday, November 27.

The order came upon after close monitoring, the Ministry of Health (MOH) suggests a "link" between Chinese raw fish meals and delicacies and apparently an aggressive strain Group B Streptococcus or GBS named the Sequence Type (ST) 283. An alarming number of 355 cases if GBS infections were recorded this year, wherein about 150 of the cases have something to do with raw Chinese style fish dish consumption.

In a statement on Friday evening, MOH said it was notified of 355 cases of GBS infections to date this year. Of these, about 150 cases were the GBS strain linked to the consumption of Chinese-style ready-to-eat raw fish dishes. Among the recorded cases, two patients have died. Through their issued statement, the MOH also explained that "One death was of a recently reported case and is still under investigation while the other was not linked to the outbreak."

A test on nearly 400 fish samples were conducted between August and October this year from various food stall suppliers such as wet markets, fishery ports, wholesalers, supermarkets and food outlets. GBS was detected in 20.1% of the tested specimen, while 4.1% of those had the ST283 strain.

The authorities said that most fish sold at markets and fishery ports here are intended for cooking, and are not safe to eat raw as they may carry parasites or bacteria which are destroyed after cooking.

Most of the fishes that were tested positive of the bacteria were freshwater species like the Song fish (Asian bighead carp), Toman fish (snakehead), and Tilapia. These fishes are also the most common kinds that are used in Chinese style dishes. Since mid-July 2015, the National Environment Agency (NEA) had issued an advisory that commands food retail establishments to temporarily cease the sale of the said kinds of fishes. According to authorities, most of the fish being sold at the local markets and ports are all intended for cooking and not to be served raw and ready to eat as is.

"The contamination of the fish could have occurred along the food supply chain," said the statement issued by NEA, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Ministry of Health. Food handlers are said to be unlikely the source of the bacteria responsible for the increase of GBS related incidents.

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