Cancer-linked chemicals found in Hong Kong hairy crab

Food safety authority calls on retailers to stop selling product sourced from two mainland aquaculture farms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 November, 2016, 8:46am

Authorities have urged retailers to stop selling hairy crabs from two mainland farms after some were found to be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.

Two out of five hairy crab samples from three importers and two retailers were found to contain excessive levels of dioxin and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls. Both are highly toxic chemical compounds that can cause cancer and damage the reproductive and immune systems, a Centre for Food Safety spokeswoman said.

The test results of the inspection in late September, released on Monday, showed the two samples recorded dioxin levels of 11.7 picograms and 40.3 picograms per gram. The acceptable level is 6.5 picograms.

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The centre’s assistant director of food surveillance and control Dr Choi Mei-yee said a number of affected crabs had already been sold on the market, but was not able to say exactly how many.

The affected samples originated from two aquaculture farms in the eastern Jiangsu province, which account for up to 80 per cent of Hong Kong’s import market, this year’s records show.

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“We have already contacted the relevant importers in Hong Kong to recall crabs from those two farms and to take them off the shelves. We strongly urge retailers who have bought crabs from these two farms to stop selling them,” Choi said.

Choi said around a dozen distributors were also affected, with authorities still tracking the distribution of the tainted crabs.

Dr Philip Ho Yuk-yin, a consultant in risk assessment and communication at the Centre for Food Safety, allayed concerns, saying the affected crabs would not cause any immediate health risk or food poisoning.

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If a person consumed more than 14 large, contaminated hairy crabs during the season, which runs from September to November, they would exceed their monthly intake limit of the chemicals, he said.

People who eat a lot of fatty foods would exceed the monthly intake limit if they consumed three of the contaminated crabs.

Late Tuesday, the centre published a list of 15 importers involved in the tainted hairy crab case. Four major importers including Old San Yang in Causeway Bay were included.

Sandy Ki Yuk-fung, director of Old San Yang, one of the four biggest hairy crab importers in the city, was on Tuesday overwhelmed by phone calls for order cancellations and purchase returns.

She claimed her loss was as much as HK$1 million.

She said a “countless number” of customers had called to ask if they could return their crabs.

Her company was connected to one of the aquaculture farms in Jiangsu, but she said she did not source from the farm. She said her business only cooperated with the mainland business with regards to import paperwork

Ki was furious on Tuesday night when she accused the department of not disclosing all the facts and not advising the public that her crabs had passed all tests.

Ki said a legal letter was sent to the department Tuesday.

Stephen Chu, director of another importer Wah Kee Wing Cheong Ho, said he did not source from the Jiangsu farms involved in the recall, but had a similar connection regarding paperwork.

He sold his crabs as usual on Monday, but said he is now awaiting further instruction from the department.

Click HERE to access the department’s list of hairy crab importers (Chinese only)

Additional reporting Danny Mok