Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Crab importers call for policy clarity

HEALTH Representatives of importers and retailers said they would gladly follow a 'clear and definite' policy, although a total ban would be `unbearable'

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA, TAIPEI

Hairy crabs are presented for sale at a market in Taichung City yesterday. Although the seller has documents proving that his stock came from a different importer than the one whose crabs have been found to contain carcinogens, buyers remained cautious.

PHOTO: CHAN CHAO-YANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Major hairy crab importers and distributors including two chain supermarket operators, Carrefour and RT-Mart, said yesterday that the government should adopt a "clear and definite" policy on live fauna and flora imports.

Business representatives made the remarks at a news conference held after Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) instructed the administration a day earlier to adopt stricter screening measures on such imports as part of efforts to safeguard public health.

Carcinogens

The instruction came after traces of nitrofurans -- a group of cancer-causing chemicals that have been banned for use in food-producing animals in most countries around the world -- were detected earlier this week in several batches of crabs imported from China.

Chou Hsien-liang (周憲亮), president of Kunshan Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab Co (昆山陽澄湖水產公司), and his deputy Yu Tzih-chiang (游自強) as well as representatives of Carrefour and RT-Mart said that if the government decided to suspend imports of hairy crabs, also known locally as dazha (大閘) crabs from Yancheng Lake in Jiangsu Province, they would follow the policy without complaint as an effort to safeguard their business reputation and consumer rights.

However, they suggest that such a policy be "clear and definite" because if it isn't, their companies would sustain a great deal of loss and that would be "unbearable," the business representatives said.

Explaining his company's importation procedures, Chou said that they had never attempted to ignore official regulations on live crab imports, which demand safety tests before doing so, as well as safety insurance.

All their imports of Chinese hairy crabs have been sent to SGS, an international inspection, verification, testing and certification company, for food safety checks before being shipped to Taiwan, Yu said.

The reason they didn't know about the presence of nitrofurans in their crabs was because the government had never asked for laboratory analyses of the chemicals, Yu said.

He said that the company had again sent samples of the problematic imports to SGS, with the results of the tests expected to be released by Wednesday.

Saying that Kunshan Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab Co's imports complied with the law, Chou added that if the government imposed the same ban against importing hairy crabs from China as it had done on imports of US beef, Kunshan might have to close because the company only runs one business -- importing hairy crabs from China to Taiwan.

Kunshan's crab imports have reached around 10 tonnes a year, accounting for half of total imports in Taiwan.

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