Reacting to EU bans on Taiwanese seafood, five businesses were directed to suspend operations and 50 tonnes of local produce were targeted for inspection yesterday by the Fisheries Administration.
The action followed the Department of Health announcement on Wednesday that the EU had rejected 30 tonnes of Taiwanese fish and shrimp between August and this month. EU officials found the seafood had been contaminated with chloramphenicol, a carcinogen, and the toxic chemical nitrofuran.
Fish prices at local markets yesterday suffered, falling around 70 percent. But health authorities yesterday said that consumers should remain calm about exposure to the tainted produce, as a portion of the 30 tonnes rejected by the EU had been destroyed in Europe, while the rest had yet to appear in local markets.
After investigating the source of the contaminated seafood, health authorities said most of the produce came from suppliers in southern Taiwan.
All products to be exported to Europe in the near future would have to be strictly examined, said Fisheries Administration official Hu Sing-hwa (
To protect overseas markets, Hu said, the problem of seafood products being smuggled from China should be addressed more aggressively.
But according to health officials, Kaohsiung City suppliers implicated in the EU rejection obtained their produce from Tai-wanese deep-sea fishing vessels and fish markets in Singapore.
Hu said results of tests on seasoned eels and fish would be available within three days.
"We will in particular inspect the suppliers -- two fish farms in Tainan and Pingtung counties -- to learn more details about feed, medicines, and water quality," Hu said at a press conference.
Illegal use of additives or antibiotics can result in fines between NT$3,000 and NT$10,000.
In July and August, only one out of 145 products examined was found to be contaminated by proscribed antibiotics, Hu said.
There are around 30,000 fish farms in Taiwan, and random inspections of farms are carried out every two months.
Hu said NT$50 million would be spent on increasing the frequency and improving the accuracy of tests for chemicals.
There are only nine professional chemical laboratories capable of analyzing antibiotic residue in seafood.
Hu said the EU rejection might lead to a financial loss in the fishery sector this year. Taiwan produces about 350,000 tonnes of seafood a year worth NT$30 billion. About one-third of this is exported.
Huang Yeong-shin (黃永信), managing director of the Taipei Fish Market, said that the government should identify the culprits as soon as possible to not only pacify consumers but also minimize the negative impacts on the sector.
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