A report released today by local think-tank Civic Exchange calls for legislative change to protect consumers from toxins in live fish sold as food. Over 600 cases of ciguatera fish poisoning – caused by eating subtropical or tropical fish that have fed on toxic algae – have been reported in Hong Kong since 2000. Because live fish is not regarded as food under existing legislation, the government’s ability to protect the public from this risk is limited.
“The government’s slow response in dealing with the risk of ciguatera seems at best indifferent; and at worst negligent” said researcher Thierry Chan. “In the case of Malachite Green, the government enacted the necessary legislation in 10 days – but it has delayed tackling the ciguatoxin issue for more than 15 years.”
A voluntary code of practice on the import and sale of live marine fish for human consumption was introduced in 2004; but assessment of the program in 2005 revealed that there were problems with voluntary compliance. Mr. Chan, author of the report, asked, “Does someone have to die before the guidelines are rigorously applied?”
The research report explores the risks associated with consumption of live food fish in Hong Kong, and explores options for policy reform.