CFS explains food poisoning investigations

Test results of 22 raw oyster samples previously collected from supplier Worldwide Seafood Ltd. and four food premises showed that no pathogens were present, a spokesman for the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) said today (October 20).

"The Centre will continue to take effective food safety control measures to protect public health," he said.

The spokesman said that information about the supplier was made public earlier on grounds of public interest to enable the trade to be aware of the situation and be on the alert.

"Testing of food samples is only part of the investigatory work in food poisoning cases. The latest test results would not negate our earlier decision to disclose the name of the supplier."

The spokesman said that in investigating suspected food poisoning cases, the CFS would take into account a number of factors and take appropriate actions as situation warranted.

The factors include clinical and epidemiological data, hygiene condition of the food premises, sources and distribution of food concerned, and test results of food samples.

"In the present case, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) from September 26 to October 10 received eight reports of suspected food poisoning cases in four food premises. Investigations into the clinical and food history of the patients revealed that the cases might be related to consumption of raw oysters.

"The CHP also found that the stool sample of one of the patients was tested positive to Norovirus. This virus usually exists in raw oysters."

Based on the epidemiological data, the CFS immediately conducted an investigation into the source of concerned raw oysters and found that the oysters consumed in the four food premises came from the same supplier.

The spokesman stressed that during investigations into food poisoning cases, the CFS would take appropriate actions, including releasing relevant information, in line with the latest developments and as the situation warranted. Public interest and protection of public health, rather than food sample test results, were the prime considerations in deciding any necessary actions to be taken.

"As to the source of oysters in question, the CFS is following it up with the Chilean Consulate General as the supplier claimed that the oysters concerned were frozen half-shells imported from Chile. CFS is also awaiting information from the supplier to confirm the source.

"The investigation is continuing," the spokesman said.
Ends/Friday, October 20, 2006