Date
12 December 2017
Chinese-style salted fish products remain popular in Hong Kong, especially among senior citizens. Photo: Leesia/Wikimedia Commons
Chinese-style salted fish products remain popular in Hong Kong, especially among senior citizens. Photo: Leesia/Wikimedia Commons

Cancer-risk warning issued on Chinese-style salted fish

Health authorities have issued a cancer-risk warning on the Chinese-style salted fish.

The information was published on the website of the China Food and Drug Administration, which reprinted in late October the latest list of carcinogens compiled by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) under the World Health Organization, hk01.com reports.

The traditional Chinese seafood, which is preserved in salt to prevent its decay as a result of microbial growth and chemical changes, is categorized under Group 1 carcinogens, along with cigarettes, processed meat, alcohol, passive smoking, air pollution, etc.

In fact, the IARC has listed Chinese-style salted fish under Group 1 carcinogens as early as 2012. 

A Hong Kong seafood dealer said Chinese-style salted fish has been enjoying stable sales for years as it continues to be popular among senior citizens, although consumption by younger consumers has been declining possibly as a result of health concerns.

Gordon Cheung Chi-leung, president of the Hong Kong Nutrition Association and a registered dietician, urged the public to avoid eating salt fish.

He said a large amount of sodium is used in processing the fish meat, which in turn results in a chemical reaction that produces nitrite, a substance that could induce nasopharyngeal cancer.

Cheung cited statistics showing that there are more cancer patients in China’s southern coastal regions than in other parts of the country, and this could be attributed to their preference for salted fish products.

Meanwhile, local seafood dealers don’t seem to be bothered at all, with some saying cancer-risk warnings on Chinese-style salted fish have been issued and reported before.

The owner of a seafood store in Sheung Wan said he has no intention of reducing his inventory of salted fish products because his customers continue to buy them.

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TL/JC/CG

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