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Food Safety Focus (53rd Issue, December 2010) – Food Incident Highlight

Food Poisoning and Consumption of Sea Turtles

Food poisoning cases with symptoms like acute oral inflammation and ulcers, nausea and vomiting due to consumption of sea turtles are reported sporadically throughout the Indo-Pacific region. In some cases, deaths were also reported. People eat sea turtle for taste, cultural significance or reputed therapeutic function.

Sea turtles eat a wide variety of food, including mollusks, seaweeds, sea grass, sponges and fish. It is possible that algal toxins, heavy metals and other contaminants are accumulated in their bodies. Turtles found in common local dishes, including the three-banded box turtle and the Chinese soft-shelled turtle, are freshwater species. Wild sea turtles are not recommended for food use as they are under the control of the Wild Animal Protection Ordinance and of higher food safety risk.