Home / Local News
Wed, Jan 10, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Officials refute damning report on local oysters


Both environmental and agricultural officials expressed doubts yesterday over a local report that concludes that people who eat polluted oysters raised in certain Taiwanese coastal areas run a high risk of contracting cancer.

Local media reported yesterday that oysters raised in 12 coastal areas in Taiwan had been seriously polluted by organochlorine pesticides (有機氯殺蟲劑) and heavy metals, including carcinogens such as arsenic and chromium. The report said that polluted oysters posed 200 to 500 times the acceptable risk of cancer, as defined by US regulators.

The report was based on a scientific report published in the British scientific journal Environmental Pollution late last year.

The research paper, supported by grants from the National Science Council, was co-authored in 1999 by professors from Taipei Medical College, National Taiwan University and National Tsing Hwa University, including Han Bor-cheng (韓柏檉), Jeng Woei-lih (鄭偉力), Hung Tsu-chang (洪楚璋), Ling Yong-chien (凌永健), Shieh Ming-jer (謝明哲) and Chien Ling-chu (簡伶朱).

In the research paper, the scientists state that the overall problem of metal contamination in seafood -- especially oysters -- is more serious than was previously thought to be the case in such an industrialized and densely populated area. The authors recommend in the paper that people should limit their consumption of oysters from polluted waters, especially Erjen River (二仁溪) in Tainan County, Hsiangshan (香山) in Hsinchu County and the island of Matsu (馬祖).

Officials at the Environmental Protection Administration, however, said yesterday that they doubted the scientific report.

"Evaluating cancer risks based on concentrations of chemicals accumulated in oysters is dubious," said Roam Gwo-dong (阮國棟), director-general of the administration's Bureau of Water Quality Protection.

Roam said that risk assessments should include more factors, such as the amount of oysters consumed and food consumption behavior.

In addition, Roam said that recent administration coastal waters monitoring data showed that arsenic and chromium were within acceptable limits.

Officials of the Fisheries Administration under the Council of Agriculture told the Taipei Times yesterday that eating oysters raised in coastal areas should not be a problem because oysters are randomly examined before they are available on the market.

The council officials said, however, that people should avoid eating raw oysters because the process of shelling and storing oysters could cause health risks.

Council officials said the local oyster industry was declining due to oyster smuggling from Thailand and China. Compared with the more than 20,000 tonnes of oyster output in 1998, Taiwanese consumed only 18,500 tonnes of oysters in 1999.

Council officials said that oysters imported secretly from countries which allow the use of pesticides posed a greater danger to consumers. Long-lasting contaminants, such as pesticides, can build up in the human body.

This story has been viewed 3037 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top