Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Tough measures introduced over toxin-laced crabs

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Angelica oung  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH CNA

Chou Hsien-liang, general manager of Kunshan Yangcheng Lake Aquatic Produce, yesterday presents certificates for two batches of hairy crabs from China and Taiwan to prove that all hairy crabs imported by the company are confirmed to meet health standards before being put on the market. Some hairy crabs imported from China have recently been found to contain carcinogens.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Travelers arriving in Taiwan will not be allowed to bring hairy crabs into the country anymore after traces of carcinogens were detected in crabs imported from China, the Department of Health (DOH) announced yesterday.

As of yesterday, hairy crabs imported from China, also known as dazha crabs, will require a food safety inspection certificate, the DOH said.

After the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection on Monday found traces of carcinogens in a consignment of hairy crabs, six new batches of the crabs containing cancer-causing substances were discovered yesterday, the DOH officials said.

The officials estimated that more than 3 tonnes of carcinogen-tainted hairy crabs from China have been consumed in Taiwan.

According to the DOH's inspection data, the nitrofuran concentration in the six new batches of hairy crabs from the Shanghai area averaged between 1.1 parts per billion (ppb) and 1.25ppb, while the batch that inspected on Monday had a nitrofuran content of 4.7ppb.

Nitrofurans are a group of cancer-causing chemicals which have been banned for use in food-producing animals in most countries.

Lawmakers yesterday accused the DOH of concealing information that batches of hairy crabs imported from China since last year were found to contain carcinogens.

The information was first disclosed at a press conference held by Democratic Progressive Party legislators Cheng Kuo-chung (鄭國忠) and Wu Ming-ming (吳明敏) on Tuesday.

"The DOH didn't make the information public until we demanded in an official document late yesterday that it should do so immediately," Cheng said.

The lawmakers said that DOH officials had to take responsibility for concealing the findings.

Displaying three hairy crabs that had been bought at a supermarket, the lawmakers said that there were no indications to consumers about where the crustaceans were from and whether they had been certified safe for consumption.

The lawmakers urged the DOH to eliminate loopholes in inspecting foods from China.

"We suggest that the government should station inspectors in China to ensure food hygiene before the products are transported into the country," Wu said.

"Meanwhile, the government should demand that Chinese hairy crabs be sold only with a quarantine certificate attached," Wu added.

Hsia Tung-ming (蕭東銘), the director of the DOH's Bureau of Food Safety, said that tougher measures would be implemented to prevent more contaminated crabs from reaching consumers.

Testing will be stepped up and all shipments of crabs reaching Taiwan will need an examination report proving that the crabs do not contain residual antibiotics exceeding the legal limits.

Meanwhile, the president of a company that imports hairy crabs from China said at a news conference yesterday that all the crabs that have been listed as "problematic" were distributed by the Taipei Farm Produce Marketing Co and that officials from the Taipei City Department of Health had inspected the shipment and determined that the amount of carcinogens they contained was negligible.

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