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Science to prove ways of knowing when seafood is safe to consume

by | Feature

Jul. 21, 19 | 10:55 am

The regular notification of red tide and shellfish ban by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources or BFAR of the Department of Agriculture resulted in some further scientific explorations and research of Filipino scientists to determine and improve the safety of seafood in the long term, and to identify ways on how to make food safe by easily discovering pathogens that cause diseases.

Scientists and researchers specializing in fishery science presented their innovations that may contribute to the fishing industry economics and its sector, in a media brunch by the University of the Philippines Visayas at Plazoleta, Hotel del Rio, Iloilo City.

Dr. Sharon Nunal shared her knowledge on the detection of foodborne pathogens along the supply chain of fresh oysters and mussels and its cultured environment.

“Knowing our seafood safe or not is important since we all consume food that later affects our health,” Dr. Nunal claimed. Oysters and mussels were the focus of the study since the the country is exporting many of these in 2016 according to statistics, which were used for human consumption and market commodity.

The root of all causes

A coastal phenomenon- the red tide according to BFAR is a condition in which the water is discolored due to a high concentration of algae. Depending on the organisms involved, the red tide does not necessarily be identified as red but
it could also be yellow, brown, green or milky.

This phenomenon usually occurs when algae rapidly increase in numbers due to some environmental conditions like temperature changes and physical concentration of species. The immediate exponential growth of the toxic algal bloom could harm shellfishes and some seafood.

Despite the fact that red tide occurs all over the world, red tide cannot be predicted precisely even if science knows its possibility. Some seafood is unsafe to eat if they are taken from affected areas which include clams, cockles, oysters, mussels, and scallops since these are prone to toxic contamination. Shellfishes feed by filtering microscopic food out of the water, and if planktonic organisms are present, they are taken from water along with other nontoxic food.

Scientists and researchers specializing in fishery science presented their innovations that may contribute to the fishing industry economics and its sector, in a media brunch by the University of the Philippines Visayas at Plazoleta, Hotel del Rio, Iloilo City.

Dr. Sharon Nunal shared her knowledge on the detection of foodborne pathogens along the supply chain of fresh oysters and mussels and its cultured environment.

Due to this regular monitoring, scientists developed a molecular tool or A DNA-based technique that is fast and reliable to immediately determine the DNA of bacteria and viruses that affect the health of seafood especially during red tide phenomenon.

Research on the detection of microorganisms and pathogens

Pathogens according to science daily are biological agents that cause diseases or illness to the host. During the red tide phenomenon, harmful algal blooms are formed that are sometimes harmful to humans including dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella that produces toxins and accumulate in seafood including shellfish, making it dangerous to eat.

The conventional culture technique using agar plates is the current standard for detection by many fishery specialists. “Depending on the bacterial species, it would take about 2-7 days to analyze the samples, but viruses won’t be detected because conventional techniques are not enough to know its presence to seafood, ” Dr. Nunal said.

Inaccurate interpretations and false results due to long exposure, which lead to the contamination of the sample, would be the factors why there’s a need for the creation of new scientific innovations.

The development of the molecular detection tool would immediately help the fishing industry easily detect the presence of bacteria and viruses on seafood even at very low numbers.

Knowing ahead of time through the detection of these pathogens on seafood would be beneficial to humans, as well as in production cost and our economy, according to some experts.

Isolation of foodborne pathogens from mussels and oysters

During monitoring and analysis, about four bacteria were identified in some seafood which was taken on affected areas. These include e coli, salmonella, V. cholerce, and V. parachaemolyticus present on mussels and oysters.

Through the amplification of virulence genes in bacterial pathogens, the gene codes of phospholipase hydrolyzing fatty acid were identified. The gene is an attaching protein that is responsible for the attachment of other virulent factors such as e coli that is affecting the seafood. Enterovirus genes were detected from mussels and oysters.

Because of this tool, it would be beneficial to all consumers and all stakeholders if science can detect in advance, if those which are sold in the market are affected or not by the red tide phenomenon. “It could also reduce the risk of encountering foodborne diseases and health safety from seafood we bring from farm to table, and could indirectly increase the access to safe and nutritious food,” Dr. Nunal said.

The seafood economics

Dr. Nunal also shared that the faster analysis would eventually provide immediate results that would reduce the contamination and spoilage of products. “Higher profit would be generated if there is a reliable method like this (DNA detection) for food pathogens that would later contribute to the increase of production for exports,” Dr. Nunal added.

Knowing the value of these products and its role for supply chain reaction would help each Filipinos become smart, and healthy consumers.

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It has a print run of 60,000 copies and 250,000 readership per week; bolstered by 2.5 million visitors to its website every month. It also has an e-newsletter sent to its 250,000 subscribers every day.

The Filipino Times is FREE and has the widest targeted circulation across the 7 emirates of the UAE.

With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

THE FILIPINO TIMES. We are where the Filipinos are.

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