Game for local boar meat? (The Newpaper, Sunday 22 July 2012)

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Game for local boar meat?

While edible, expert warns it may be host for bacteria. – TNP
Joyce Lim
Sun, Jul 22, 2012
The New Paper

WILD boar meat is sough after here.

So if National Parks Board (NParks) is planning to cull the growing population of the animal, why not make its meat available for consumption?

Responding to the NParks decision to cull the boars in the Lower Peirce Reservoir area, a Straits Times reader wrote to suggest tendering the wild boar meat to hawkers since it is “regarded as a delicacy by some food lovers”.

He added that some people travel to far-flung restaurants in Malaysia that serve it.

But how safe is it to consume wild boar meat here?

While wild boar meat is edible, the problem is that nobody has studied if the meat from the animals here is safe to consume, maintained Dr Diong Cheong Hoong, the former head of the Natural Science Academic Group at the National Institute of Education.

So The New Paper turned to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the food watchdog which decides what is safe for consumption.

An AVA spokesman said there is no appropriate facility in Singapore to ensure the safe and hygienic processing of local wild boar meat.

And without proper processing, it may not be safe to consume products made from wild boar meat here.

But why is it unsafe?

Associate Professor Hugh Tan Tiang Wah, the deputy director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore, said wild boars here could have been exposed to pollutants and toxins that they consume, and their flesh may be infected as a result.

Sure, but how bad can it get?

Chef Riku Lek, 35, who has tried braised wild boar meat in Johor Baru, said: “It’s a delicacy in Malaysia. It’s definitely tastier than regular pork. The meat is lean, yet it is soft and melts in your mouth.

“Wild boar meat needs to be well-cooked as bacteria are known to grow on it. Most chefs would braise or slow-cook it.

“When you cook it for long hours, I don’t think any bacteria will have a chance of surviving in the meat.”

Dr Diong said: “Consumers risk being infected with disease pathogens that are transmissible directly from the boars to humans.

“Wild boars are hosts and reservoirs for a number of bacteria, viruses and parasites that are transmissible to humans.

“Some of the serious diseases… that are transmissible to humans include viral hepatitis E, swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, tuberculosis, brucellosis, leptospirosis and trichinosis.

“There is no study to date on the prevalence and infection intensity of infectious disease agent in the wild boar population in Singapore and until then, a wild boar carcass, in a culling operation, should be treated as a biohazard and disposed of accordingly.”

Death

If that is not scary enough, Dr Diong added that infection can come about by eating infected meat that is not properly cooked or by open skin contact with blood and tissue fluids of infected boars.

He said: “Human deaths resulting from the consumption of wild boar meat infected with disease and pathogens have been reported in Japan.”

Mr Yong Ding Li, a research coordinator with the Nature Society (Singapore) and lead author of a research paper on the animal in Singapore, said: “To the best of my knowledge, there are no published studies on disease transmission in the consumption of wild boar meat locally.

“But people have contracted hepatitis E from eating undercooked wild boar meat.”

Imported wild boar mean, however, is a different matter.

From January 2011 to last month, Singapore imported about 0.8 tonnes of wild boar meat, said an AVA spokesman.

Most of the meat came from US and were tested by AVA before being supplied to the restaurants.

An AVA spokesman said: “All imported meat products, including wild boar meat, must come from sources approved by AVA.

“The accreditation process includes evaluating the countries’ veterinary infrastructure, animal health status, legislations for control of animal diseases and food safety.

“It also includes assessing the establishments to ensure that production facilities, production practices, hygiene and food safety levels meet AVA’s standards.”

And yes, there are some people who love the taste of wild boar meat.

Food suppliers TNP spoke to said that it has always been in demand here and can easily cost twice the price of pork.

joycel@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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