22 July 2018
Producers of hairy crabs have to comply with safety limits on chemical content. Photo: Xinhua
Producers of hairy crabs have to comply with safety limits on chemical content. Photo: Xinhua

FEHD halts sales of hairy crabs after toxins found in samples

Sales of hairy crabs from two mainland companies have been halted by the government after they were found to contain carcinogenic substances.

Hairy crab samples from Jiangsu Wujiang Wanqing Taihu Xie Yangzhi Ltd. Co. and the Jiangsu Taihu Fishery Ltd. Co. have tested positive for the cancerous chemicals dioxin and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyl.

Samples from the two breeding sites were found to contain 11.7 and 40.3 picogram per gram, respectively, exceeding the legal limit of 6.5 picograms per gram by almost 80 percent and 520 percent.

There are 15 retailers in Hong Kong that imports hairy crabs from these two mainland companies.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has asked retailers to suspend selling hairy crabs with immediate effect.

The samples were examined in September, so it’s possible some of the hairy crabs concerned might already have been sold or consumed.

The FEHD said the delay was due to the complicated procedure of testing for the two toxins, a process that takes about a month.

It said it responded immediately after the reports came out on Monday and contacted mainland authorities for further investigation.

The FEHD warned of health hazards if an adult consumes more than 14 hairy crabs containing the chemicals in a month.

Dioxin is a highly toxic chemical that can cause cancer and damage the immune system.

The toxins are usually by-products of certain industrial activities, such as the production of plastic or metal moulds, Apple Daily reports.

Professor Chris Wong the of Hong Kong Baptist University said dioxin can easily enter the food chain when it is released in the air, entering the soil and falling down as rain on crops or produce.

Wong warned against fake hairy crabs produced from poorly maintained aquaculture.

Chan Kam-fai, a spokesperson for Wing Fu Food Co., said sales have dropped drastically.

He said they made a mistake buying from Wujiang Co. where the crabs were about 10 percent cheaper.

They incurred a loss of HK$20,000 because of the FEHD’s suspension order, Ming Pao Daily reports.

Besides retailers, some restaurants could also be affected.

So-Kee, a restaurant, which specializes in hairy crabs and hotpot meals, said although their crabs come from another aquaculture with certificates from mainland authorities, business could still suffer as customers become wary of the delicacy.

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