Import and sale of hairy crabs from an aquaculture farm in Taoyuan, Taiwan to be suspended

Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (October 16) that a Taiwan hairy crab sample was found to contain dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at a level exceeding the action level adopted by the CFS. Following risk assessment, the CFS has instructed the trade to suspend import into and sale within Hong Kong of hairy crabs raised in the same aquaculture farm (an aquaculture farm in Zhongli District, Taoyuan City, Taiwan) of the unsatisfactory sample with immediate effect.

     A CFS spokesman said, "Same as past practice, the CFS has collected hairy crab samples for testing (including dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs) at the import and retail levels to check if the products comply with local legal requirements and are fit for consumption. As of noon on October 16, a total of 84 hairy crab samples, including 11 samples tested for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, have had satisfactory test results. As to the unsatisfactory sample imported from the aquaculture farm in Taoyuan, Taiwan, collected at the import level, it was found to contain dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs at a level of 9.86 picograms (pg) toxic equivalent per gram (TEQ/g) of the food sample, exceeding the action level adopted by the CFS (i.e. no more than 6.5 pg TEQ/g of food sample (wet weight)).

To safeguard public health, the CFS has instructed the trade to suspend import into and sale within Hong Kong of hairy crabs from the aquaculture farm concerned with immediate effect."

     The spokesman said two batches of hairy crabs had been imported from the aquaculture farm concerned by two local importers so far. The CFS has informed the importers concerned, and preliminary investigation showed that the affected batches of hairy crabs have not entered the market. All affected products have been marked and sealed by the CFS and will be surrendered to the Centre for disposal.

     The CFS will notify the Taiwan authorities and follow up on the incident with them.

     According to the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), all food available for sale in Hong Kong, locally produced or imported, should be fit for human consumption.

An offender is subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months upon conviction. If the trade import the hairy crabs concerned into Hong Kong following the CFS' announcement, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department can affix a mark or a seal to the hairy crabs concerned and consider disposing of such food under Section 59 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance.

     The spokesman stressed that the CFS has continued liaising with the trade. Since January this year, the CFS has, through several consultation forums and meetings, reminded the trade that the Centre would continue adopting the action level of no more than 6.5 pg TEQ/g of food sample (wet weight) for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, and advised them to import a small quantity of hairy crabs first and voluntarily stop selling them until there are satisfactory results.

The CFS will inform them of the updated list of Mainland aquaculture farms registered for supplying hairy crabs to Hong Kong.   

     The spokesman added dioxins are a group of chemical compounds found naturally in the environment which are persistent environmental pollutants and highly toxic. They can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and can cause cancer. Dioxins are fat-soluble and not easily broken down which tend to accumulate in fatty tissues and along the food chain.

In general, some foods may contain dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. However, the concentrations will not cause acute adverse effects. As regards chronic health effects, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives have established a Provisional Tolerable Monthly Intake (PTMI) of 70 pg/kg of body weight per month for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs.

Occasional short-term exposure above the PTMI would have no health consequences provided that the average intake over a long period is not exceeded.

     The CFS will continue to follow up on the incident and take appropriate action, and maintain close collaboration with other government departments, in order to safeguard food safety and public health.

Published on: 2017-10-16

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