How can you be sure the food you’re buying is safe to eat?
It’s a question we’re getting answers to in the wake of another Hepatitis A scare.
On Tuesday, local distributor Tropic Fish Hawaii announced its frozen raw tuna, or ahi, cubes imported from Indonesia tested positive for Hepatitis A.
The Hawaii Department of Health says food stores, like Times Supermarkets, received the tainted product.
In 2016, nearly 300 people got sick with the virus after the state traced the outbreak to tainted scallops served at Genki Sushi.
The DOH says it relies on the FDA to make sure all imported foods outside of the United States are safe to eat.
We’re told much of our seafood is brought from overseas. We also learned there are no federal rules for testing imported products for hepatitis A.
Food safety inspector Peter Oshiro says the department relies on the federal government to check the safety of imported food products into the U.S.
“We have no idea (about safety regulations at various countries for imported seafood) and it’s because the jurisdiction lies with the federal government. The states don’t have the resources to monitor any food process in the nation,” she said.
The state says no one in Hawaii has ever gotten sick with hepatitis A from locally sourced seafood. The tainted food came from overseas, recently from the Philippines and Indonesia.
The DOH says local distributors end up checking their own products for hepatitis A, which is how Tropic Fish Hawaii discovered the ahi it bought from Indonesia was tainted.
“How can the public know what’s safe to eat? Are they supposed to ask the store, ‘Where is my ahi coming from?'” KHON2 asked.
“Right. We can give no guarantees,” replied Oshiro. “That’s why we have consumer advisories stating you are at risk. The consumer has to take some responsibility into their own hands. There’d be no salmonella or hepatitis A outbreaks if everything was cooked. For myself, also, I do not hesitate in eating raw fish. I eat poke from anywhere. Again, it’s a recognized risk I’m going to take.”
Rep. Della Belatti, who chairs the House health committee, got vaccinated at a clinic that was set up at the State Capitol on Wednesday. She says it is still the best protection against the virus.
“I think what this recent incident highlights is the way we are very interconnected. Our food supply food system is a global system. It reminds us that we need to be vigilant,” said Belatti. “Here’s an area where it’s the federal government’s responsibility. Clearly we know there’s issues and problems. We can take a harder look at it.”
We reached out to the FDA, but have not yet heard back.