Food Safety Focus (73rd Issue, August 2012) – Food Incident Highlight
Recreational Shellfish Harvesting
Recreational shellfish harvesting, for example clam digging, is fun to do in summer. Some individuals also enjoy the taste of their harvest. But are these shellfish safe to consume?
Most visited local bays for recreational shellfish harvesting, such as Tung Chung Bay and Whitehead near Wu Kai Sha are close to urban areas. If the water is polluted, shellfish living there may contain pathogens, including norovirus and/ or heavy metals. Furthermore, precaution should be taken as shellfish have sharp edges which can cause serious injury, particularly if wounds are infected by Vibrio vulnificus – a life-threatening infection.
The Centre for Food Safety advises the public not to consume recreationally harvested shellfish. The public should purchase shellfish from reliable retailers, wash them thoroughly, have them fully cooked and discard any cooking liquid before consumption. Last but not least, while thorough cooking can kill pathogens, chemical contaminants still remain and pose a food safety risk. Therefore, one should maintain a balanced diet with a variety of food to minimise any associated risks.