An inspection report released by the Fisheries Agency yesterday found residue of leuco-malachite green — a potentially carcinogenic metabolite — in eels raised on a farm in Yunlin County that allegedly supplied eels to Minchuan International, whose canned roasted eels were last week found to contain the substance.
All six fish farms at the facility, owned by a Yunlin resident surnamed Hsieh (謝), were tested.
Eel samples from two farms tested positive for leuco-malachite green, with concentrations reaching 5.9 parts per billion (ppb), the agency said.
Agency official Miao Tzu-chang (謀自昌) said that leuco-malachite green is the primary metabolite of malachite green, which is an industrial dye and an antiprotozoal drug that has been banned in the nation’s fish-farming sector.
Transportation of all eels at the facility would be prohibited until the leuco-malachite green levels in the fish drop to below 0.5ppb, which would likely take two-and-a-half to three years, Miao said.
Eel netting is prohibited during this period and no transport vehicles are allowed to enter or leave the facility, he said, adding that the agency would closely monitor the facility for any breach.
Miao yesterday dismissed reports that said existing laws could force fish farmers to cull the eels, saying that leuco-malachite green, unlike avian influenza, does not spread and that culling is unnecessary.
Since this is the fish farm’s first violation, the agency asked the Yunlin County Government to impose a fine of NT$60,000, the minimum fine stipulated in Article 36 of the Veterinary Drugs Control Act (動物用藥品管理法), he said.
The facility would face a maximum fine of NT$300 million (US$9.75 million) if further inspections by local health authorities find that the tainted eels have made their way to the market, he said.
Asked how the farm is to cope with losses during the lockdown, Miao said that the proprietor would probably have to wait it out, adding that the eels in question are Japanese eels, which have a long life expectancy and would be market-ready after leuco-malachite green levels drop to legally permissible levels.
Alternatively, it could exterminate the fish on its own initiative and start over, but that would be the fish farm’s decision to make, Miao said.
Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital department of clinical toxicology director Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海) said that both malachite green and leuco-malachite green are toxic and potentially carcinogenic to humans, adding that extensive exposure to the substances could induce thyroid gland or liver diseases.
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