Tip Toeing on the Worm-infested Canned Mackerel Issue

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  • Three canned mackerel brands contaminated with roundworms. Photo: Istimewa; Interfood; Bukalapak.com

    Three canned mackerel brands contaminated with roundworms. Photo: Istimewa; Interfood; Bukalapak.com

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) should have been more careful in revealing its finding related to worm-infested canned mackerel. The notice delivered on Wednesday last week has triggered public fear and threaten the livelihood of canned product industry.

    The lacks information of how the worms might affect the human body is the weakest point in BPOM’s statement. People find it confusing at the time the Minister of Health Nila Moeloek and several experts of parasitology disputed that finding.

    The anisakis worm contained in the canned mackerel is initially safe to consume since the species could die under 63-degree celcius, while the standard heating for canned fish is at 121 degrees.

    Moreover, the worms are often found in most carnivorous fish such as grouper, mackerel, and pompano. The infection caused by the worms usually feels like abdominal pain, which is something commonly experienced by Japanese citizens who enjoy eating raw fish.

    Unfortunately, BPOM failed to submit those explanations for their release of the issue. That additional information could have helped in preventing public panic and other impacts that should not be happened.

    Furthermore, in the midst of confusion, BPOM announced 27 brands of canned fish products that contaminated with worms. Instead of calming the public, the announcement made people warier and led to the perception that all canned fish products in the market were already contaminated. Canned tuna and sardine products were also recalled.

    As a result, in just a few days after BPOM launched the announcement, the Indonesian Fish Canning Association (APIKI) reported as many as 26 canned fish factories ceased the production. Thousands of workers are threatened to be fired and million tons of fish are wasted.

    Coordination and communication among related stakeholders are needed as to prevent a worse condition. The fish canning industry should hold BPOM and related ministries - especially the Ministry of Health - to jointly clear up the confusion among the public.

    Despite considered as harmless, the anisakis worms in canned fish should not certainly happen in the future. That finding has indicated the pollution during the canning process. Thus, the industry must immediately take a move.

    However, with all its shortcomings, BPOM should be appreciated for its foresight monitors in revealing the finding of worms in canned mackerel fish since it has the mandate to oversee all drug and food products consumed by the public. With more improvements in its public communications methods, BPOM will be a more credible and trustworthy institution.