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Senator Pedro Muñoz asked to avoid risks and have conclusive scientific evidence. (Photo: YouTube, CongresoChile/BCN)

Call for ban on sale of salmon infected with ISA virus

Click on the flag for more information about Chile CHILE
Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 16:10 (GMT + 9)

Lawmakers and environmentalists are demanding that the Chilean Health Ministry (Minsal) prohibit the marketing of more than 100 tonnes of salmon for human consumption, which is infected with the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus.

The petition was filed by Senators of Magallane, Pedro Munoz, Guido Girardi and Alejandro Navarro, the council of Punta Arenas, Mario Pascual, and organizations like the Centro Ecocéanos, the Latin American Observatory for Environmental Conflicts (OLCA), Citizens Defense League for the Consumer and International Consumers.

A few weeks ago, the National Fisheries Service (Sernapesca) reported that it had detected an outbreak of ISA in facilities belonging to the Acuimag company, located in the Magallanes region.

In total, some 230 tonnes of salmon were infected by the virus, of which only 50 were destroyed. The remaining 180 tonnes are being processed for human consumption in the plant of Pesquera Edén.

The director of Centro Ecocéanos, Juan Carlos Cardenas, beleives that "it is urgent that policy actions and the system for sanitary control of the industry are strengthened to ensure the safety of the industry's aquaculture production."

While both the Ministry of Health and Sernapesca say the virus does not cause problems for humans, but rather a high mortality rate for fish, the Ecocéanos specialist warned that the virus comes from the same family that produces the human flu and therefore has a great capacity for mutation and adaptation to new hosts."

For his part, Senator Muñoz stressed that "while there is no conclusive scientific evidence of their safety for human health, health authorities should avoid any risk to the community."

That is why the Ministry "should immediately ban the sale and consumption of infected farmed fish from this industry," said Cardenas.

Meanwhile, Omar Pérez Santiago, Secretary General of the Citizens Defense League, said the National Consumer Service (Sernac) is required to inform the public about the presence of the virus in salmon.

Senators criticized the actions of the authorities in Magallanes due to the appearance of the virus. The main charge is in "the lack of inspection to enforce environmental standards," complained Pascual.

According to the senator, although the company had permission to produce about 200 tonnes of fish, when detecting the outbreak of ISA it was found that production had actually reached 600 tonnes.

For its part, the regional government last week formed a contingency table to coordinate the processes and environmental and health measures to be taken in case of detecting a new outbreak.

With respect to suitable premises for the disposal of large quantities of infected fish, one of the first measures announced was the creation of short-term health ditches and the installation of a new sanitary landfill, to avoid falling back on municipal landfills.

Related articles:

- Company begins to process 180 tonnes of salmon with ISA virus
ISA virus detected in Magallanes

By Silvina Corniola



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