Oral reply by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, to Parliamentary Question on sale of live turtles, on 5 May 2020
Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources whether the Ministry will consider banning the display, slaughter and sale of wild-caught live soft-shelled turtles at the wet markets due to zoonotic disease transmission risks.
1 NEA has stopped tendering out wet market stalls for the sale of live turtles since 2012. Existing wet market stalls that are currently allowed to slaughter and sell live turtles can however carry on with their trade if they comply with food safety and hygiene requirements under the Environmental Public Health Act. This includes ensuring stall cleanliness and proper storage practices. Enforcement actions will be taken by SFA against vendors for food safety and hygiene infringements. SFA has not detected such infringements during its regular inspections.
2 SFA, in consultation with NParks and NEA, has evaluated the risk of zoonotic disease transmission by reptiles associated with the slaughter and sale of live turtles. Transmission risks are found to be low, as long as food safety and hygiene standards are maintained. There have been no cases of zoonotic disease transmission from these animals at the wet market stalls.
3 In general, foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella can be found in all live animals and raw meat, and these can be transmitted to people through direct contact or ingestion. To prevent foodborne illnesses, both stall vendors and patrons should observe good food safety and hygiene practices, such as the washing of hands with soap and water before and after handling raw meat, and by thoroughly cooking the meat, which helps to kill any harmful bacteria in food.
4 Nonetheless, agencies are reviewing the sale and slaughter of live animals in wet markets taking into consideration international benchmarking and scientific evidence, and will continue with efforts to improve public health and environmental hygiene standards in Singapore, including our wet markets. Members of the public can also report non-compliant wet market stall vendors to SFA or NEA via the agencies’ online feedback forms.