Sat, Oct 21, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Hairy crabs cost bureau chief his job

CRUSTACEAN CALAMITY The head of the Bureau of Food Safety was a victim of the furor surrounding the importation of crabs containing carcinogens

By Flora Wang and Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Liao Pen-yen, left, and colleagues yesterday burn Chinese hairy crabs in public during a protest calling on the Cabinet to ban food imports from China.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-DE, TAIPEI TIMES

The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday announced that chief director of the DOH's Bureau of Food Safety Hsiao Tung-ming (蕭東銘) will be demoted following the `toxic crabs' controversy.

The current chief of the DOH's Bureau of Food and Drug Analysis, Chen Shu-kong (陳樹功) will be taking Hsiao's place, the department said in a press release yesterday.

After permitting the importation of live crabs from China for more than one month, the DOH disclosed on Wednesday that the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection under the Ministry of Economic Affairs had discovered earlier this week that several batches of the crabs contained cancer-causing nitrofurans.

On Wednesday the DOH announced that with immediate effect, travelers arriving in Taiwan will not be allowed to bring hairy crabs into the country.

Minister of Health Hou Sheng-mao (侯勝茂) on Thursday apologized to the public for the health department's delay in revealing the discovery of hairy crabs chemical inspections.

In the future, if imported foods are found to be harmful according to the DOH's standards, a maximum fine of NT$200,000 (US$6,000) will be levied, said the department in the release.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus yesterday demanded that the government immediately purchase and destroy all hairy crabs imported from China.

The caucus also urged the government to conduct a thorough examinations of all merchandise imported from China.

Meanwhile, TSU caucus whip Liao Pen-yen (廖本煙) told a press conference that the government should purchase the Chinese hairy crabs instead of confiscating or banning their sale.

Liao said that compensation for consumers and businessmen was necessary because "it is the carelessness and idleness of the administration that contributes to their loss."

TSU Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said that the caucus believed the most important thing for the government at the present moment was to immediately suspend the importation of Chinese hairy crabs.

It was difficult for the government to verify the accuracy of the examination documents that come with the products, she said.

The government obviously made a mistake in allowing the crabs to be imported or carried by passengers to Taiwan, Liao said, leading TSU lawmakers to burn several Chinese hairy crabs at the conference.

Speaking at the Legislative Yuan, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday instructed the administration to adopt stricter screening measures on imports of live animals and plants as part of efforts to protect public health and the country's wildlife and environment.

Su added that the relevant government agencies must be held accountable for the recent controversy involving the import and consumption of the Chinese hairy crabs.

Additional reporting by CNa

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