Lau Fau Shan, the New Territories
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Lau Fau Shan, the New Territories Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Hong Kong TV show which gave its stamp of approval to eating raw oysters from Lau Fau Shan in the New Territories has been contradicted by government departments.

On Sunday, the TVB show “Homegrown Flavor Series 2” featured oyster farms in Lau Fau Shan in Deep Bay, facing Shekou in China. The area is famous for its oysters, news website reported.

However, in recent years, consumers have avoided local oysters following media reports about hazardous levels of bacteria and heavy metals found in the shellfish.

Sunday’s TV program showed viewers a water purification system installed at one of the oyster farms, saying that, thanks to the introduction of new technology, seafood lovers could now savor the oysters raw.

A doctor of marine biology interviewed for the program claimed that, after the oysters were in the purification system for 48 hours, their quality met the Center for Food Safety standard for being eaten raw.

The marine biologist added that staff at the oyster farm closely monitor the process and regularly send water samples to be tested for bacteria including hepatitis A and the norovirus.

The two hosts of the program then ate raw oysters and praised them as being fresh, plump and full of flavor.

However, the Center for Food Safety put up a Facebook post on Tuesday, pointing out that the water purification process does not ensure that oysters can safely be eaten raw.

The Center explained that, if oysters are grown in contaminated waters, they will naturally absorb and accumulate bacteria and heavy metals.

Also, regardless of the season or the region in which the oysters are harvested, consuming oysters, particularly raw or partially cooked ones, carries an inherent food safety risk.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department backed this up by posting on Facebook on Thursday, saying it had not only supported the development of the local fishery industry, it had also funded the purification facilities highlighted in the TV program.

However, the department emphasized that Hong Kong-grown oysters are only suitable for eating after cooking, adding that they required the growers to make this point clear to buyers of their product.