Malaysian official says local shrimps are safe for consumption, in reaction to news report

Malaysia's Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Sim Tze Tzin holding up a prawn during a visit to a shrimp farm, on Jan 5, 2020. PHOTO: SIM TZE TZIN/FACEBOOK

GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Prawns sold in Malaysia are safe for consumption, the deputy agriculture minister said, in response to a report in The Star newspaper about the use of antibiotics in some shrimp farms in the country.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Sim Tze Tzin said the Fisheries Department has a stringent monitoring system for all shrimp farms across the country.

"I wish to assure the public that locally produced shrimp is safe to eat," he posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (Jan 5).

"Regular checks and enforcement are done to ensure Malaysia's food safety and export quality."

Mr Sim, who visited a shrimp farm in Kuala Langat, Selangor, on Sunday morning, said he also requested the Fisheries Department to carry out further checks on companies under watch by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2009 and 2019 following the detection of two antibiotics, nitrofurans and chloramphenicol, in more than 50 shrimp shipment samples from 38 companies.

On Saturday, The Star reported that shrimps from farms tainted with antibiotics might still be found in wet markets.

Mr Sim added that most farmers had stopped using antibiotics about 10 years ago and have turned to using probiotics with better farming practices, as they want to ensure that their shrimp can be exported.

He said that during his visit to the shrimp farm on Sunday, farmers were using enzymes to treat the water to create a better pond environment.

"Therefore, the mortality rate is as low as 5-10 per cent. They don't even use probiotic treatment.

"I am very proud that our shrimp industry has adopted new technologies and new farming methods to ensure food safety and quality," he said, adding that the shrimp from the farm was also tasty.

The Fisheries Department on Saturday said shrimp exports from Malaysia, which faced restrictions by the FDA, affect only specific exporters and do not involve the totality of Malaysia's aquaculture export produce.

The department said the shrimp samples found by the US to be tainted with the dangerous antibiotics could be through transshipments.

"We suspect an element of transshipment, involving shrimp from foreign countries outside of our jurisdiction, that were imported and then re-exported to the United States," the department said.

It said that the US import alerts were targeted only at those exporters and did not represent the industry as a whole.

"It is understood that some of those exporters had already ceased operations," the department said.

The department said its monitoring systems in agricultural residue, aquaculture sanitary and phytosanitary have been able to maintain the biosecurity integrity of Malaysia's shrimp production.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Food Authority (SFA) on Monday (Jan 6) said it hasn't detected the use of the two antibiotics in shrimps imported from Malaysia.

"SFA has not detected chloramphenicol or nitrofuran in shrimps and prawns imported from Malaysia in 2019," it said in a statement, in response to media queries. "Nevertheless, SFA will continue to regularly monitor and sample imported seafood products, including shrimps and prawns, for testing to ensure that they meet our food safety standards and requirements. This includes ensuring that the products do not contain drug residues that may be potentially harmful to human health".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.