The Ministry of Health has issued a call to restaurant owners to avoid offering crab meat to its customers.
If the meat is offered, it should be properly cooked and not served as crab sushi in its raw form.
The warning came from Neil Rampersad, chief public health inspector and Farz Khan, chief chemist and director of the Food and Drug Division, Ministry of Health, during an interview yesterday on the CNC3 Morning Brew programme with host Hema Ramkissoon.
This warning comes two days after the Ministry of Agriculture, in a press release, advised the public to avoid eating crab meat from Venezuela, as the US Food and Drug Agency stated it may be contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus — which is bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness in humans.
The symptoms of the bacteria are diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea, fever and stomach pains. So far, there have been no reported deaths.
Khan said while there are eight importers who bring in crab meat from Venezuela, there was no scientific evidence the bacteria is here.
He said the ministry was not panicking the public but issued the release out of an abundance of caution. Based on the evidence so far, Khan said the warning applies to processed crab meat or crab products packaged and ready for consumption.
“So there is no evidence of the live crabs or unprocessed crabs at this time.”
He however, advised crab lovers to examine the condition of the live crabs before purchasing.
Khan said the ministry has already increased surveillance at the ports of entry to ensure that the “food coming in is safe. This would prevent or reduce any contaminant foods entering our borders.”
The ministry will beef up its inspectorate to determine if Trinidad has the “organism” here by taking a random sampling of crabs sold at the markets and roadsides to get them tested.
“If it is there (the germ), the actual intervention will take place,” Rampersad said.
With crab season in full swing, Rampersad said customers may go after crab sushi at restaurants.
He advised restaurant owners “not to offer crab meat for sale because we are unsure what is in it at this point in time…if the foodstuff has the contaminant. So to prevent any outbreak attributed to this germ, if it is there…take precaution, do not offer it for sale.”
He said crab has been a delicacy in T&T for years. If the crab meat is offered, Rampersad advised that the meat should be cooked above 65 degrees Celsius to kill any bacteria that may be present.
The ministry has advised that live crabs should be thoroughly cleaned, washed and cooked before eating.