FOOD CONTAMINATION

Hong Kong officials meet crab traders to better understand business in wake of tainted product scare

Distributors complain that government unfairly targeted some firms accused of importing crabs from two farms in Jiangsu

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 November, 2016, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 November, 2016, 11:25pm

Food safety authorities met hairy-crab traders on Friday for the first time after officials were accused of being ignorant of how the business operates.

The Centre for Food Safety met some of the distributors after two hairy crab samples, which came from two farms in Jiangsu province, were found on Tuesday to contain cancer-causing dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls.

At least 800 kilograms of crabs have been recalled.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said the meeting was to allow the government to learn more about the actual links between crab distributors and mainland farms, after some of the traders claimed they did not source crabs from the two farms.

“We have to get to know their operating arrangement clearly and see whether they complied with import requirements and local regulations. The centre will then decide on the next step depending on the outcome of the meeting,” Ko said.

Call for tougher dioxin limits after carcinogen found in hairy crabs exported to Hong Kong

The minister said information collected from the crab traders would also be passed to law enforcement authorities on the mainland, which might conduct their own investigations.

One of those attending the meeting, Old San Yang director Sandy Ki Yuk-fung, criticised the government for only trying to understand the business after alleging that 80 per cent of crabs in the local market were contaminated.

“Their decision was so abrupt,” Ki told a press conference she hosted on Friday afternoon. “The government could have avoided widespread panic about eating crabs if they had understood not all crabs imported from the two aquaculture companies were sourced in the same way.”

She called on the government to quickly name the company which owned the toxic crab samples to clear her company’s name. “It would be easy for them to find out,” she said.

“This incident has brought psychological distress to my whole family. The public’s confidence in eating crabs has fallen to zero” said a tearful Ki, who is from the second generation to run the crab business.

Ki said all crabs imported from Lake Tai in Jiangsu had been taken off her shelves and kept in the company store since November 2 – one day after the Centre for Food Safety issued its alert.

She said she would lose a “countless number” of crabs and more than HK$1 million because of what had happened.