Import and sale of hairy crabs from two aquaculture farms in Jiangsu Province suspended with immediate effect

1 November 2016
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The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (November 1) that the import into and sale within Hong Kong of hairy crabs raised in two aquaculture farms in Jiangsu Province has been suspended with immediate effect. The trade should also stop using or selling the products concerned immediately should they still possess them.

A CFS spokesman said, "A total of five hairy crab samples (a total weight of about 12 kilograms) have been collected for tests on dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in late September under the seasonal food surveillance project which is being conducted by the CFS. Test results showed that two of the samples were found to contain dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs at a total level exceeding the action level adopted by the CFS that dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs levels should not exceed 6.5 picograms toxic equivalent per gram of the food sample (wet weight). Test results of the other three samples were satisfactory. To safeguard public health, the CFS has decided to suspend the import and sale within Hong Kong of the hairy crabs from the concerned aquaculture farms.

Reprinted from HKSAR Government:

"The CFS preliminary investigation found that the concerned products were from the two aquaculture farms in Jiangsu Province. The CFS has notified the Mainland authorities concerned of the incident for their follow up action and will maintain close contact with them on the issue. 

The spokesman said the CFS has informed the local importers concerned of the irregularity and instructed them to remove the affected products from shelves, stop sale and initiate a recall. The CFS is also tracing the distribution of the affected products. The trade should stop using or selling the concerned products immediately should they still possess them. People who have bought similar food item recently but are not sure about its sources should also refrain from eating it for the sake of prudence and check the product's origin with relevant retailers.

Dioxins are a group of chemical compounds 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. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs as human carcinogens. Dioxins arise either naturally or as by-products of industrial activities, e.g. metal smelting, molding or burning of chlorine-containing organic chemicals such as plastics. Dioxins are fat-soluble and not easily broken down which tend to accumulate in fatty tissues and along the food chain.

According to Section 54 of 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.

The CFS will continue to follow up on the incident and take appropriate action, including stepping up surveillance and continuing to trace distribution of the affected food to safeguard food safety and public health. Investigation is ongoing.