Safe to eat local shrimps, minister assures Malaysians

GEORGE TOWN • Prawns sold in Malaysia are safe for consumption, the deputy agriculture minister said yesterday, in response to a report in The Star newspaper on the use of antibiotics in 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.

"I wish to assure the public that locally-produced shrimp is safe to eat," he said in a post on his Facebook page, adding: "Regular checks and enforcement are done to ensure Malaysia's food safety and export quality."

Mr Sim, who visited a shrimp farm in Selangor yesterday morning, said he has asked the Fisheries Department to carry out further checks on companies under watch by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2009 and 2018, following the detection of two antibiotics, nitrofurans and chloramphenicol, in 44 samples from shrimp shipments.

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

But Mr Sim said most farmers 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, 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 our shrimp industry has adopted new technologies and new farming methods to ensure food safety and quality," he said.


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

The department also said the shrimp samples found by the US to be tainted with the dangerous antibiotics could be from 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," it said.

It said the US import alerts were targeted at those exporters only.

The department said its monitoring systems in agricultural residue, aquaculture sanitary and phytosanitary are 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. "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".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2020, with the headline 'Safe to eat local shrimps, minister assures Malaysians'. Subscribe