Carcinogens Detected in Hairy Crabs, Water Pollution to Blame, Says Expert
Yicai Global
/SOURCE : Yicai
Carcinogens Detected in Hairy Crabs, Water Pollution to Blame, Says Expert

(Yicai Global) Nov. 4 -- Crab season is here again in China and Hong Kong has always been a major market for hairy crabs. This year, however, Hong Kong consumers are in no mood for hairy crabs because the region's food and hygiene department has detected excessive amounts of a carcinogenic substance -- dioxin -- in crab samples delivered from Shugang, in eastern Jiangsu province.

Test results show two crab samples contained 11.7 and 40.3 picograms of dioxin --five times higher than the allowed limit. Experts set the monthly allowance of dioxin provisionally at 70 micrograms, information published on the website of the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates.

Small amounts of dioxin are found in our daily diet, said consultant Juk-Jin Ho. If a 60-kg adult consumes 14 or more crabs a month during the three-month crab season, her intake of dioxin would exceed the allowed monthly limit, assuming each crab contains 40.3 picograms of dioxin. People living on a diet rich in fat can easily exceed the provisional monthly limit after eating only three to four crabs, because of the relatively high dioxin content in their daily diet.

The news shocked many hairy crab aficionados, with 15 crab stores in Hong Kong recalling 800 kilograms of crabs.

The news certainly caused panic among the public, notes Gaa-Wo Wong, President of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades Ltd., and it will impact crabs from other crab farms. He estimated that around 70 percent of crab sellers will be affected.

Water pollution caused by plastic waste is to blame, said Yan Jinhu, Secretary of the Suzhou Yangcheng Lake Crab Association. Zhu Yi, Associate Professor at the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering at China Agricultural University said, "It's not possible that dioxin was deliberately added to the crabs. The most likely cause is feed pollution, or the natural environment at the farms has become contaminated."

An Yicai Global reporter visited the two farms in Jiangsu involved in the incident. Both said their products were licensed and all had passed quality tests, but they also admitted no dioxin tests were not conducted in the mainland.

However, a crab farmer told the reporter that crabs from Taihu Lake were relatively smaller this year, meaning they are not up to par for export. Someone might have brought crabs from other places and sold them as Taihu Lake crabs. "Consumers can't tell the difference, as all crabs in Jiangsu are the same breed."

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