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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Listeriosis scare prompts checks on all US food

KUALA LUMPUR: All food from the United States will be tested before sale in the wake of a listeriosis outbreak from fruits and vegetables. 

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said there had been no serious listeriosis cases in the past.

"Consumers need not worry about the outbreak as the United States Food and Drug Administration has verified that produce from the Jensen Farm in Colorado was not exported."

However, as a preventive measure, Liow said the ministry would closely monitor cantaloupes imported from the US.

"All products from the US will also be sampled for testing before being released." 

The ministry, he added, had directed that food from the US be elevated to level four of the Food Safety Information System for Malaysia (FoSIM).

FoSIM has six levels of alert. Level 4 requires every consignment from the source country to be sampled, Level 5 requires the consignment to be sampled and held at the port, while Level 6 requires the consignment to be rejected.

Checks at supermarkets showed cantaloupes and romaine lettuce on the shelves were mostly from Genting Highlands, China and Thailand.

Giant Supermarket OUG Plaza supervisor Normah Matilus said the store did not import cantaloupes or romaine lettuce from the US.

"The only fruits we import from the US are apples and oranges. Other fruits like cantaloupes are locally grown.' 

Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesalers Association president Chong Tek Keong said their main source of vegetables were China and Australia.

"We seldom import vegetables from the US but we import small quantities of fruits from there." 

Chong said before they received any of their products, they were first screened by the ministry for bacteria.

Hup Seng Wholesaler Sdn Bhd spokesman said their main source of vegetables was China as shipments from US would take too long.

CVS Vegetable Supply director Alex Tan said their produce was grown locally, mostly in Cameron Highlands, as they were cheaper and grown hydroponically.

There have been 84 listeriosis cases in the US since the first case on July 31.

Fifteen people have died from the disease, spread by bacteria which causes fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhoea and affects the brain. - NST

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