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Singapore will ensure mussels are not imported from Port Dickson

Singapore is restricting the supply and sale of mussels found in the waters off Port Dickson in Malaysia.

In a statement on April 6, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said it has received confirmation from the Malaysian Department of Fisheries (DOF) that mussels harvested in the Port Dickson area have been contaminated with biotoxins and are not safe for consumption.

On April 2, eight cases of food poisoning, believed to have been caused by the eating of mussels, were reported in the resort town. The victims had headaches, numbness in the hands and feet, and muscle weakness.

The SFA is working with importers to verify the sources of their mussels. No biotoxins have been detected in seafood imports including mussels over the past few weeks, it added.

Mussels here are imported from countries such as China, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam.

According to statistics from the SFA, in 2021 a quarter of Singapore’s seafood imports came from Malaysia, the most of any country.

The SFA will continue to monitor the situation and check on water quality in farming areas, as well as work with importers to ensure that mussels are not imported from Port Dickson.

The DOF earlier warned against consuming the mussels, and also against eating other similar shellfish, such as lokan or lala, until they are certified safe.

DOF deputy director-general of management Wan Aznan Abdullah said tests found that the mussels harvested in the Port Dickson area were contaminated with the Prorocentrum, Alexandrium and Pseudo-nitzschia algae species.

Mussels, a type of bivalve, are filter feeders, said the SFA. This means they feed by taking in water and filtering out organisms.

Bacteria, viruses and toxins can accumulate in their bodies and can pose a food safety hazard, and this is normally resolved through proper handling or cooking.

But the cooking process might not destroy all the biotoxins.

Consumers should avoid harvesting and consuming shellfish from the wild, as these could contain biotoxins that cannot be removed by cooking.

The SFA said: “Consumers should always purchase shellfish from SFA-approved businesses, and avoid consuming raw or undercooked bivalves, especially for the young, elderly, immunocompromised or pregnant.”

According to Mr Wan Aznan, preliminary investigations pointed to the recent hot weather as a reason behind a dramatic increase in the algae population.

“The prolonged hot weather helps the algae grow rapidly, causing the level of biotoxins to increase drastically as well,” he said.

He added that tests showed that bivalves farmed and fished in other states, such as Melaka and Johor, are safe to eat.

“Only the ones harvested in Port Dickson are not safe to eat for now,” he said.