Jakarta. Officials at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries urged the public on Wednesday (08/11) to ignore rumors on social media that canned sardines on sale in Indonesia are contaminated with toxic heavy metals, such as mercury.
Zulficar Mochtar, head of the Marine and Fisheries Resources Development Agency (BPSDM-KP), said canned sardines produced and distributed in the country are safe for consumption.
He explained that a substance looking like eggs or crystals is often found in the stomachs of sardines. This is caused by Glugea sardinellensis, a type of protozoa or parasite. The parasites produce spherical cells around themselves as a form of protection. These cells turn into growths, known as xenoma, which can be up to 18 millimeters in diameter.
The agency said the parasites will not be passed on to humans as long as infected fishes are cleaned, washed and cooked properly. The presence of Glugea sardinellensis in fish is neither unusual, nor dangerous, and it is therefore not necessary to avoid eating sardines.
"Based on this explanation, we can confirm that the rumor about the egg-like substance, or crystals in canned sardines being caused by the presence of heavy metals is incorrect," Zulficar said in a statement.
Nilanto Perbowo, director general of marine and fishery product competitiveness at the ministry, meanwhile urged the public not to believe the rumor.
Nilanto said fish are canned in accordance with food safety and quality standards set by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and that these also apply in Indonesia.
"Thus, canned fish in Indonesia is safe for human consumption as it does not contain heavy metals and other hazardous materials. There is no need to avoid eating sardines," he said.