PUSAT KAJIAN SAMUDERA & PANTAI -- Universiti Sains Malaysia

Make it a deadly serious offence

Guessing game: Once the fish is cleaned, it is hard to identify the highly toxic pufferfish from other types of fish.

PETALING JAYA: Stern action can be taken against traders if they are found selling any produce that has substances that are poisonous, harmful or injurious to health, says the Fisheries director-general.

Datuk Adnan Hussain said action can be taken under laws including Section 13 of the Food Act 1983, which carries a jail sentence and fine or both upon conviction.

He added that the risky sale of pufferfish (also known as ikan buntal) prepared by those who are not certified warrants serious attention.

“Those purchasing fish online, especially in the form of fish fillet, need to properly check the species of the fish as well as the type of fish they bought.”

On Saturday, Eng Kuai Sin @ Ng Chuan Sing, 84, who was in a coma after eating pufferfish with his wife two weeks ago, died at the intensive care unit (ICU) of Hospital Enche’ Besar Hajjah Kalsom in Kluang.

He had been warded with his wife, Lim Siew Guan, who died on March 25.

Eng was admitted to the ICU after the couple ate pufferfish bought online from a supplier in Batu Pahat who gets his supplies from fishermen in Endau.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan called on the authorities to create more awareness and for the relevant bodies to tighten enforcement.

“There must be regulations put in place when it comes to selling pufferfish.

“It is important that there is a clear law as even the fishmongers know they can claim they are unaware of the toxins (contained therein),” she said.

Prof Tan, who is also the Fisheries Society president, said pufferfish is relatively common to our waters and sliced fish is difficult to identify – leading to what she described as a deadly combination for the unassuming public.

She added that when fish is sliced, a non-expert would not be able to determine its species.

“The public will not know if it is a pufferfish unless it is alive and all puffed up. Once it is cleaned, you really do not know what fish you are purchasing.

“All big fish that are cut into slices will look alike. You could ask the fishmonger, if he is honest about what you are purchasing.

“(Otherwise) this could lead to what happened with the elderly couple,” she said.

Friends of the Earth Malaysia’s Meena Raman said the sale and consumption of the deadly fish show there is still not enough awareness.

“More needs to be done by the authorities to prevent tragedies like this.

“The fishmonger who sold the fish to unsuspecting consumers must be taken to task.

“The Fisheries Department must do more to educate fisherfolk not to catch pufferfish, while markets must be inspected by local authorities to ensure such fish is not on sale,” she said.

Johor health and unity committee chairman Ling Tian Soon said an investigation into the deaths of the couple is under way, adding that the Johor Health Department had taken action as soon as the case was reported.

“The department has carried out an investigation to identify the supplier, wholesaler and seller of the pufferfish,” he said.

Source: TheStar

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