Aquatic Products Must Be Thoroughly Cooked Before Consumption


       The Food Safety Department of the IAM reminds the public to heighten awareness of personal hygiene and food safety, following notification of cases in Macao about people feeling unwell suspected to be caused by consumption of undercooked or improperly handled aquatic products. Members of the public have to pay particular attention to food items used for hotpot and barbecue that require thorough cooking and grilling before consumption, as in the case of aquatic products and shellfish, like oysters and scallops.


Important things to note in consumption of aquatic products:

       Amongst the factors affecting the food safety of aquatic products, contamination of water bodies is one of the major and common factors. Shellfish and bivalves that rely on filtering out marine microbes from the water as food are more susceptible to pathogenic contamination. Of the different sources of contamination, biological contamination caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites is the most frequent case while vibrio cholera, vibrio parahaemolyticus and norovirus (Norwalk-like virus) are the common viruses causing food-poisoning. However, these pathogenic bacteria and viruses can be destroyed by thorough cooking.


       During winter and spring, the norovirus is one of the common pathogens causing acute gastroenteritis, which is usually associated with consumption of undercooked shellfish (e.g. oysters). The incubation period of norovirus infection is usually 24 to 48 hours. Clinical symptoms include vomiting, non-bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and even low-grade fever. In case of suffering from symptoms of viral gastroenteritis, the patient should seek immediate medical attention from the hospital.


Advice to the public:

       Members of the public have to maintain personal and environmental hygiene. Aquatic products and shellfish must be thoroughly cooked before consumption. High-risk individuals, particularly young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immunity, should avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood. While enjoying hotpot or barbecue, ensure that the food ingredients are thoroughly cooked before consumption. Always use two different sets of chopsticks and utensils for handling cooked and raw food during cooking and never consume raw food (i.e. non-sashimi grade food requiring heat treatment) which is intended to be eaten cooked. Before purchase and consumption of food items, the public should be aware of their source of origin and quality. When doubtful about the hygiene and quality of certain food, do not eat it.


Advice to the trade:

       The Food Safety Department urges the food trade to purchase food ingredients (especially shellfish) from reliable suppliers with good hygiene condition, be aware of the country of origin of food products before ordering them, make sure that they are suitable for human consumption and retain the purchase orders, invoices and sales records. Moreover, food should be kept in appropriate temperature and environment. Cooked and raw food must be handled properly to avoid cross-contamination and cooking duration and temperature must be noted to ensure that food is thoroughly cooked to minimize food safety risk. For food establishments which provide raw and fresh food that requires consumers’ cooking for consumption, they have to provide consumers with guidelines on safe food consumption.