Tossing raw fish aside, rather than above a yu-sheng-style salad platter, is a sensible choice for now, given the abundance of indications that grave risks exist. The outbreak of food poisoning in Singapore, caused by an aggressive strain of a common bacterium found in the human gut, is said to be one of the largest infections of its kind in the world. Food lovers should not dismiss the link between the 360 cases of infection - that, sadly, have led to two deaths - and fish served raw. Tests have found the bacterium in samples of freshwater fish within the supply chain (saltwater fish is off the hook, so to speak).
The National Environment Agency (NEA) is not being over-cautious in prohibiting all food outlets and caterers from offering raw freshwater fish. If all are left to exercise their own judgment, there is no telling how much heed will be paid to advisories. After all, some foodies go to great lengths to satisfy cravings. An example: Japanese fans of puffer fish (fugu), a pricey delicacy served at even a three Michelin-star restaurant in Tokyo, who dice with a speedy death should traces of the toxin in the fish's liver get on their plates.
The everyday presence of a dish, like raw fish porridge, might also lull some into thinking that harm is unlikely to befall them, especially after the probe by the Health Ministry, NEA and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. But if a serious infection occurs and is not treated early, it could lead to complications, as in the case of a former technician whose limbs had to be amputated in August. Ironically, certain public health rules might be needed more in safe and regulated places simply because people might let down their guard for those very reasons.