FOOD SECURITY

Hong Kong’s toxic hairy crab sellers ‘lying over suppliers’, says food watchdog

Official hits back after five sellers of dish at the centre of food scare claim they didn’t get their crabs from problematic mainland farms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 10:27pm

Health officials have accused some hairy crab distributors of falsely denying their supplies were from two mainland farms recently linked with food contamination, lawmakers have heard.

At least five of 15 local distributors had cried foul over being named by the food watchdog. They said they did not get their crabs from the two companies managing the farms at Lake Tai in eastern Jiangsu province, which provide up to 80 per cent of Hong Kong’s import market.

They were named after the Centre for Food Safety found two out of five hairy crab samples contained excessive levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

Dr Gloria Tam Lai-fan, the centre’s controller, rejected the suggestion that the watchdog had wrongly accused them.

“We are concerned about the claims made by some distributors that they have not sourced hairy crabs from the farms, but these claims are in fact not true,” Tam said on a food and health panel in Legco yesterday.

She said information from food safety authorities in Jiangsu showed the crabs in question came from a problematic farm on Lake Tai, which owned a transit field that re-packaged crabs for export.

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

“So in fact these crabs were also coming from Lake Tai and had to be recalled,” Lai said.

The five distributors were Wah Kee Foods, Shing Lung Hong, Old San Yang, China Resources Ng Fung and Yuk Hoi Trading. Hairy crabs are raised in farms around Lake Tai, but are exported only through a handful of companies authorised by the China Inspection and Quarantine Services, according to industry sources.

The distributors said earlier that the crabs they sold or distributed came from their own farms around Lake Tai, and they only dealt with one of the aquaculture farms in question to help with import and customs clearance.

Wah Kee Wing Cheong Ho’s director Steven Chu declined to comment on the government’s accusation. “I don’t know. My business has been affected a lot,” he said. Other distributors could not be reached.

Food minister Dr Ko Wing-man said the watchdog would release another round of test results on the safety of hairy crabs by this weekend at the soonest.

Mainland officials had “agreed in principle” to include dioxin and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls – which caused the scare – into their food safety detection, Ko said.