Asia: After The Flood Brings Fear of Seafood

While in Mexico, people take pleasure in Holbox seafood from the Raw Bar of Maria Carmita, the opposite is happening halfway across the world.

Declining sales, falling prices, deserted markets: After the flood, hardly any fish can be sold in Asia. Because of the many bodies in the water, many people believe that eating it could endanger their health.

After the flood disaster in Asia, many people in the region lost their appetite for fish. Sales at the fish markets between Beijing and Singapore, Bangkok and Calcutta have plummeted. Against all expert advice, many consumers have taken the view that fish and sea creatures that have fed on the many corpses in the water are a health hazard. “I feel like I’m eating dead meat,” says housewife Lee Kim Eng in Singapore.

Fish sales plummeted

“Wave of fear – of seafood,” writes the “Straits Times” in Singapore, and strives for professional clarification: “Eaten completely, wash thoroughly, cook long enough, do not eat raw.” If you stick to it, you have nothing to fear. But the good advice goes unheeded – the fear remains. In Singapore, fish sales have collapsed by 30 percent and prices have halved. “I love fish and shrimp, but now I just eat chicken,” Tan tells the newspaper.

Fish is still eaten in China, but crabs, crabs, and mussels from Southeast Asia are spurned. People want to know where the sea creatures come from. At the wholesale market in Beijing, sales of crabs from Burma have fallen from 2,500 kilograms a day to 1,000 kilograms. Fish from Southeast Asia can no longer be sold in restaurants. Instead, sales of freshwater fish and imports from Europe and North America are increasing.

In the Indian metropolis of Madras, sales have fallen from 50 tons to less than a ton of fish a day, and in Bangalore from 70 to under two tons. Fish markets are deserted and many fishermen face unemployment. Here, too, restaurants are experiencing a downturn in business and have stopped serving fish.

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Transmission of hepatitis A possible

All baseless panic? There is no health reason not to eat fish in flooded areas, says Helmut Jäger, head of the Travel Medical Center at the Hamburg Tropical Institute. Cooked or fried fish do not pose a particular risk of disease. Raw mussels and crabs contaminated with feces could transmit hepatitis A and jaundice even in ordinary times.

In addition to the rather irrational fear of fish in view of the many thousands of corpses, there are also concerns about possible contamination of the sea with toxins and heavy metals. But here, too, the all-clear is given. “We didn’t find any increased burden,” said Ramlee Rahmat, head of disease control in Malaysia. And the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Lee Yong-Wook, sets a good example and says: “Ever since I arrived in Sri Lanka, I eat fish every day.”