Safety measures prevent crabs from entering the country

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, Sep 18, 2007 - Page 2

This year's strengthened food safety measures could mean a mid-autumn season without hairy crabs from China. Food Safety Bureau officials said that there has not yet been any applications from crab importers seeking to bring crabs into this country even though the brief hairy crab season has already started.

Sherry Chien (簡希文), inspection section chief at the bureau, said the sticking point for importers seems to be the new bureau requirement than an animal health certificate from China Inspection and Quarantine must accompany every shipment of crab.

"Until the Chinese quarantine authorities issue the certificates, vendors cannot submit their import applications," Chien said.

The Chinese hairy crab, much-sought after by gourmets, is only available in September and October. Although Taiwan also produces its own hairy crabs, the best crabs are said to come from just one lake in China. However, last year's Chinese hairy crab season was marred by FIB tests showing that some crabs contained the banned antibiotic nitrofuran, a suspected carcinogen.

The tainted crabs were eaten before they could be pulled from the shelves. Then bureau director Hsia Tung-ming (蕭東銘) stepped down as a result of the public outcry over the incident.

As a result, the rules regarding the importation of hairy crabs have been tightened. In addition to requiring an animal health certificate with every shipment, crabs must also come from one of the 42 crab producers approved by the Chinese government. Upon arrival in Taiwan, each shipment would be tested and only released for sale when it has passed testing.