The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced last week that the import into and sale within Hong Kong of raw oysters harvested in Zwembesi Farms of South Africa has been suspended with immediate effect
The trade should also stop using or selling the product concerned immediately should they possess it.
A spokesman for the CFS said, "The CFS was notified by the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health of four food poisoning cases which involved consumption of raw oysters at branches of a restaurant chain in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. The CFS conducted investigations at the restaurants concerned and found that the three restaurants had sold raw oysters from South Africa supplied by the same local supplier. The restaurants concerned also confirmed that they did not have any remaining stock of the affected raw oysters. In its follow-up investigations, the CFS noted from the information provided by the supplier that the affected raw oysters were harvested in Zwembesi Farms of South Africa. For the sake of prudence, the CFS has immediately suspended the import into and sale within Hong Kong of all raw oysters harvested in Zwembesi Farms of South Africa."
The CFS has instructed the supplier concerned to stop supplying and selling the affected raw oysters immediately and is tracing the distribution of the affected product. The trade should also stop using or selling the product in question.
The spokesman pointed out that as oysters feed by filtering a large volume of seawater, pathogens (such as norovirus), chemical contaminants or natural toxins can accumulate in them if they are grown in or harvested from contaminated water. Regardless of the season or the region in which the oysters are harvested, consuming oysters, particularly raw or partially cooked ones, carries an inherent food safety risk. Susceptible groups, such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems or liver diseases, should avoid eating raw oysters.
The CFS will inform the South African authorities and will also notify the local trade. It will continue to follow up on the incident and take appropriate action to safeguard food safety and public health. Investigation is ongoing.