The government should examine oysters imported from Vietnam batch by batch after an initial inspection found residual inorganic arsenic exceeding acceptable levels, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said on Friday.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it has flagged Vietnamese oysters as a category 2 inspection item.
Inspections conducted in March found that at least two batches of oysters had more than five times the acceptable level of residual inorganic arsenic, Lin said.
Photo: Chen Cheng-yu, Taipei Times
Domestic sellers started importing Vietnamese oysters in about 2017, as they have a higher profit margin than Taiwanese-grown oysters, he said.
Imports of Vietnamese oysters have increased from 150 tonnes in 2017 to 3,000 tonnes last year, while domestic oyster production dropped from 23,000 tonnes to 18,000 tonnes, he said.
Imported oysters do not have origin labels, and the public would find it difficult to identify the source of oysters if the government does not identify them as a potential threat to Taiwan’s food safety, Lin said.
Chronic consumption of inorganic arsenic can lead to organ failure, and arsenic poisoning is a common cause of blackfoot disease, he said.
FDA North Area Management Center Deputy Director-General Lin Hsu-yang (林旭陽) said that Taiwan has three separate inspection stages: source management, border inspections and domestic inspections.
All imported goods must arrive with a certificate from health authorities in the area of origin, he said.
Border inspections have three levels: routine, more frequent and batch-by-batch inspections, he said.
Vietnamese oysters are now listed as requiring more frequent inspections, he said.
FDA South Area Management Center Deputy Director-General Tsai Chia-fen (蔡佳芬) said the Executive Yuan has convened a cross-agency task force to investigate the issue, adding that the team is reaching out to importers and domestic oyster farmers.
Inspections of 107 farms and importers from December 2021 to December last year has not shown any evidence that importers were attempting to pass off imported Vietnamese oysters as raised in Taiwan, she said.
The FDA would continue to work with business owners and importers to label their products correctly, she said.
Fisheries Research Institute aquaculture processing division head Tsai Hui-chun (蔡慧君) said that Taiwanese-grown oysters were the same species as those from Vietnam and it is difficult to tell them apart.
The institute has established a data archive that could help analyze the oysters, which could provide a basis for the task force to tell local and imported oysters apart, she said.
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