Sat, Jul 21, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Food safety bureau promises healthier Chinese hairy crabs

STRICT MEASURES In order to prevent a repeat of last year's debacle, all batches of hairy crabs from China will be tested for carcinogenic residue

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The public can enjoy hairy crabs from China this fall without reservations, Bureau of Food Safety officials said yesterday.

"A series of new protective measures will ensure that we don't have a repeat of last year's tainted crab scandal," Hsieh Ting-hung (謝定宏), the deputy director of the bureau under the Department of Health (DOH), told a press conference.

Last October, during the peak of the hairy crab season, metabolites of the banned antibiotic substance nitrofuran were found in batches of hairy crabs from China.

However, as the crabs were put on the market before the results of food safety tests were completed, most of the tainted crabs were eaten before they could be pulled from shelves. Then bureau director Hsia Tung-ming (蕭東銘) stepped down as a result of the public outcry over the incident.

Nitrofuran is a carcinogen banned from use in foods in Taiwan and many other countries, such as the US and the EU's member states.

EVERY BATCH

In order to prevent a repeat of last year's debacle, Hsieh said yesterday that every batch of crabs entering through customs would be tested.

"By increasing the capacity of our testing labs, we will be able to test the crabs in four days or less," he said. "With current refrigeration technology, there's no problem keeping the crabs alive for four days until they have cleared the test."

If three batches of crabs from one region test positive for banned substances, crabs from the whole region will be banned until the bureau believes that standards have improved, he said.

In contrast, only one in fifty batches of crabs were tested last year and the testing took at least a week to complete.

CHINA-CERTIFIED

Customs will also immediately reject any batches of crabs that do not come from one of the 42 crab producers who are approved by the Chinese government and have received Beijing-issued Animal Health Certificates.

The regulation barring individuals from bringing in crabs will not be lifted.

"There are innumerable crab producers in China whose food safety standards cannot all be vouched for," said Nigel Jou (周念陵) of the Taiwan Accreditation Foundation, a body that assisted the DOH in confirming the safety of crab producers in China.

When asked for comments, Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said "we'll wait and see if they mean business."

"We have seen problems with Chinese hairy crabs two years in a row, with contamination not just from nitrofuran last year but from cholera bacteria the year before," Lai said.

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