Hong Kong investigates South African oysters after food poisoning – but local farm says clear

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  • Authorities in Hong Kong have asked restaurants and retailers to stop importing and selling oysters supplied by Zwembesi Farm in South Africa.
  • This follows an investigation into cases of food poisoning in Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui.
  • Zwembesi Farm is part of South Africa’s oldest commercial oyster farmer, the Knysna Oyster Company, founded in 1949.
  • The company claims to be “fully compliant with the South African Shellfish Monitoring Program” and its regularly tested oysters are clear.
  • For more stories, visit www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The Hong Kong Center for Food Security (CFS) has suspended the import and sale of raw oysters produced by a major South African supplier. This stems from an ongoing investigation into cases of food poisoning. But Gqeberha-based Zwembesi Farm says its regularly tested oysters are all clear.

Diners at Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui restaurants have reported cases of food poisoning after eating raw oysters. Six “food poisoning groups” have set off alarm bells for the Hong Kong Health Protection Center, which has asked CFS to investigate.

“CFS investigated the affected restaurants and found that both restaurants had sold raw oysters that had been harvested to Zwembesi Farm (PTY) LTD. in South Africa, ”said a spokesperson for the CSA in a press release published on Tuesday, September 28.

“As a precautionary measure, the CFS immediately asked the trade to suspend the importation and sale in Hong Kong of all raw oysters produced by Zwembesi Farm (PTY) LTD. in South Africa.”

Oysters feed by filtering large volumes of seawater. If this water is contaminated, oysters can accumulate harmful pathogens. This is particularly dangerous in raw or undercooked oysters, as the CFS has pointed out.

Contaminated oysters may contain vibrios, noroviruses or salmonella. Consumption of these pathogens usually results in diarrhea and vomiting. In some cases, the symptoms are more severe, leading to hospitalization and even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Hong Kong CFS said it would “also inform South African authorities” of its findings and “continue to monitor the incident and take appropriate action to protect food safety and public health.”

And as the CFS investigation continues, Zwembesi Farm – part of South Africa’s oldest commercial oyster grower, the Knysna Oyster Company, founded in 1949 – says its products are regularly tested by authorities. competent local authorities.

“Our only comments are that the action was taken ‘out of concern’ and that the matter is under investigation,” the director of sales and marketing for South Africa told Business Insider. Knysna Oyster Company, John Rice.

“Our company is fully compliant with the South African Shellfish Monitoring Program and the relevant authorities, DEFF [Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries] and the NRCS [National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications], are in possession of all the results of our tests. All of this is clear for our oysters.

This is not the first time that oysters from the Zwembesi farm have been reported by authorities in Hong Kong. In 2017, the CFS instituted a similar suspension on the import and sale of oysters, following cases of food poisoning in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.

This the suspension was lifted in 2018, following the “presentation of [an] investigation report and the implementation of [a] monitoring program by the South African authorities ”. The Knysna Oyster Company declined to comment on the previous suspension or the details of the “investigation report” and “surveillance program” referred to by the CFS.

Challenging contaminated water in Algoa Bay is a constant challenge for the Knysna Oyster Company, as Rice confirmed to SAnews in 2019.

“We have worked very hard with the Municipality of Nelson Mandela Bay to minimize the challenge. We are very strict in our testing and monitoring process that we use to monitor oysters, ”said Rice.

The company is currently locked in a legal battle with the municipality of Nelson Mandela Bay, alleging that its oysters were polluted by sewage discharged from the subway, according to a report by The herald. The oyster company is suing for R34 million in lost revenue.

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