With Easter just weeks away, members of the public are being warned not to purchase fish being sold in untidy or unsanitary conditions at fish markets and landing sites.
These warning are coming from officials of the Fisheries Division who expressed concern about the standards exhibited by vendors and others who ply their trade in fish markets across the island.
Speaking during a press conference yesterday, Acting Manager of the Bridgetown Fishing Complex, Sherlock King, noted that there were a number of deficiencies at markets which could lead to the fish becoming contaminated.
These deficiencies include, but are not limited to, fish being stored at incorrect temperatures, poor fish handling practices and poor personal hygiene by vendors. But, Mr. King is advising consumers to observe the four ???P???s??? of purchasing fish ??? the premises, the people, the process and the product.
Noting that markets must be kept germ-free at all times, Mr. King stated that Government did not build markets which did not meet international hygiene requirements. ???When we build facilities, people are to use them. We also expect a level of appreciation for them,??? he added, noting that plans for market upgrades were also to encourage sanitary operations at the facilities.
The Acting Manager also implored the public to observe what vendors were doing, how they were dressed, whether or not they are practising good habits, and their levels of hygiene before purchasing fish. ???Don???t fall for the first person who charges at you in the market,??? he warned.??He also advised that all those involved in the fishing industry must carry a fisher identification card, which was proof that they had a valid medical certificate and was evidence of their health status. These identification cards must be visible at all times, he stressed.
Mr. King also said that if buyers observed other members of the public in the processing areas of fish markets that they should also be wary. He added that the handling of the fish was also an important part of the process. ???There are aspects of [dealing with] fish which can be considered as dirty, for example gutting, which is a process loaded with bacteria,??? he said.
Mr. King said that it was not hygienic to sit in areas where people were cleaning and gutting fish, or to have them in the same areas where fish was being offered for sale. ???The sale area should always be a clean area, so if you walk up to a [market] facility and you see the gutting and selling of fish [in one location] it is a ???no, no???,??? he warned.
Members of the public are also encouraged not to break the cold chain of handling fish when they make their purchases from the market. Mr. King explained that from the time fish were caught, to when they were displayed for sale, they should be on ice. And, he noted, that when fish were purchased they should also be placed in a cooler and taken straight home and returned to the ice as a way of preventing the onset of bacteria.
However, for those who insist on breaching the rules, the Acting Manager made it clear that there were penalties, including having tainted fish removed from the production line. ???You cannot have an unwholesome product going out to the public,??? he warned.