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Food Safety Focus (1st Issue, August 2006) – Food Incident Highlight

Food Poisoning Cases Traced to Raw Sea Urchins from the Same Supplier

In July 2006, there were a number of Vibrio parahaemolyticus food poisoning outbreaks related to consumption of raw sea urchins at several food premises. The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) conducted prompt investigations and found that the raw sea urchins concerned all sourced from the same supplier. The supplier was immediately requested to stop distribution of the affected products, and to recall and destroy any remaining sea urchins. In addition, over 40 food outlets were inspected to confirm that the affected products had been removed from the market. At the same time, since the supplier claimed that the sea urchins were supplied from Shenzhen, the CFS informed the relevant authority on the Mainland to take further action. No further cases occurred after control measures taken by the CFS.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is one of the most frequently isolated food poisoning organisms and can be destroyed by heating at 75oC or above for several minutes. Incubation period is from 4 to 30 hours and usually 12 to 24 hours. The symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, occasionally with mild fever.

The food trade and consumers are advised to purchase all food, especially shellfish, from reliable and reputable suppliers, check the quality of the food and store food at appropriate temperatures. Please visit the CFS website for further details on the incident.