Chinese breeders may be feeding hairy crabs, also known as dazha crabs, with poisoned mice, two Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said yesterday, calling on health officials to implement stricter inspections of crab imports.
DPP Legislator Wu Ming-ming (吳明敏) said recent reports published by different media organizations claimed that about 2 billion mice around Dongting Lake in China had been poisoned with tetramine, a type of rat poison that has been involved in major food poisoning cases in China in recent years.
As Chinese breeders have previously been accused of feeding the carcasses of dead pigs or dogs to their hairy crabs, it's likely that the poisoned mice might have been used as feed, Wu said.
Another concern over the safety of hairy crabs is that their habitat is seriously affected by cyanotoxin pollution, which could lead to liver damage in humans, Wu said.
Wu said that Chinese hairy crabs come mainly from Dongting Lake in Hunan Province and Lake Tai in Jiangsu Province, which have both reported cases of contamination by cyanotoxin.
Chang Yeh-shen (張葉森), a doctor who also attended the press conference, said that Chinese breeders have used both hormones and steroids to accelerate the growth of their crabs.
It generally takes two years for a juvenile crab to grow big enough for market, but Chinese feeders can reduce this to one year with chemicals, Chang said.
"What worries us most are the poor food safety inspections conducted by China," Wu said.
It is very difficult to examine all the toxins contained in cyanotoxin and China's less than strict inspections of hairy crabs complicates the food safety problem, Wu said.
In 2004 and 2005, about 1,000 tonnes of hairy crabs were imported from China, DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (
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.
Tien urged the government to undertake stricter testing on imported hairy crabs and called on the public to consume red crabs grown in Taiwan instead of hairy crabs.