Highly toxic hairy crabs may have been hidden, then sold with fake documents: food safety watchdog investigates

Centre for Food Safety found hairy crab sample taken on November 3 exceeded amounts of two toxic chemical compounds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2016, 11:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 November, 2016, 7:56am

A Sheung Wan hairy crab retailer has been accused of hiding toxic hairy crabs during a citywide recall then selling them with fake documents, according to the food safety watchdog.

The Centre for Food Safety found a hairy crab sample taken on November 3 from Shing Lung Hong on Wing Lok Street which exceeded amounts of dioxin and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls. Both are highly toxic chemical compounds that can cause cancer and damage the reproductive and immune systems.

Dr Gloria Tam Lai-fan, the centre’s controller, announced yesterday that the sample, taken from the shop in the latest test, was “extremely similar” to a batch of toxic crabs from Lake Tai on

the mainland discovered by the ­centre earlier this month.

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Since November 1, the government has issued a mandatory recall and trade ban on hairy crabs from the two farms on the lake in eastern Jiangsu province.

The centre suspected the problematic sample was left over from the toxic batch and that its declared origin of Xiantao city in Hubei province was false.

But the crab-seller denied there was any fabrication and ­instead claimed there had been a mix-up between different crabs.

“We are investigating the case and the centre will prosecute when necessary,” said Dr Gloria Tam Lai-fan, the centre’s controller. “It is possible that it involves forged documents.”

Of six hairy crab samples taken by the centre on November 3, only one was found to exceed the level of the toxic substance in the latest round of test results announced yesterday.

The sample, supposedly sourced from Xiantao city, was found to have dioxin levels of 42.7 picograms per gram – almost six times higher than the acceptable level of 6.5 picograms.

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But Tam said the sample was “vastly different” from other hairy crabs sourced from Xiantao city, where all other samples were clear from the contamination. Instead, it was “extremely similar” to the toxic batch from Lake Tai.

The contamination scare first broke on November 1 when the centre announced two out of six hairy crab samples from Lake Tai were found to contain excessive levels of the compounds.

Shing Lung Hong issued a statement on the same day saying its hairy crabs were not sourced from the two mainland farms linked with the contamination.

It said its products came from its own farms around Lake Tai, and it only dealt with one of the aquaculture farms in question to get import and customs clearance.

The seller was among 15 local distributors named by the centre for getting crabs from the two mainland farms.

Hong Kong government slammed for taking too long to test hairy crab samples for dioxins

It was also one of the five who cried foul over being named – ­although the health minister later rejected their protestations following an investigation with mainland officials.

On Wednesday, however, one of the owners of Shing Lung Hong, Linda Li Chi-ching, said that it was likely different batch of crabs mixed up when the centre took the sample on November 3.

“Since new products are being added into the water vat all the time, I would not rule out the possibility that some older stock of crabs were left in the water,” Li said, refusing the centre’s accusation of forgery.

Police were called to the shop after a member of staff allegedly assaulted a reporter.