The Hong Kong authorities have seized around 3.4 tons of hairy crabs suspected to have been smuggled from mainland China. The crabs are estimated to have a market value of HK$2.3 million.
The suspected smuggling case was identified during a joint operation by Hong Kong Customs and the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) on Tuesday at the Man Kam To Control Point Shenzhen border.
“Upon inspection, the batch of suspected unmanifested hairy crabs was found mix-loaded with other properly declared goods on board the vehicle, ” the two departments said in a statement issued on Thursday.
Authorities also said that the crabs did not come with health certificates issued by the relevant authorities in mainland China, and they failed to comply with the requirements of the Shell Fish (Hairy Crab) Permit issued by FEHD.
It is the second case over the past month linked to large-scale hairy crab smuggling.
On October 18, the departments seized 826 hairy crabs at the Shenzhen Bay Control Point – also suspected to have been smuggled from mainland China, with an estimated value of HK$49,000 in the local market.
Autumn sees the production of large volumes of hairy crabs, also called the Chinese mitten crab. The departments warned that local traders should not import, or put on sale, hairy crabs “with an unknown origin,” and consumers should purchase them at “reputable shops with the Shell Fish (Hairy Crab) Permit.”
According to a CFS webpage concerning hairy crabs and food safety, the main source of hairy crabs imports are registered aquaculture farms in mainland China. There are also imports from Holland, Denmark and Japan.
The centre said that any imports should comply with the local requirements including veterinary drug residues. In 2016, the CFS established an action level – or limit – of 6.5 picograms (pg) toxic equivalent per gram in edible part of hairy crabs.
Authorities identified three samples of hairy crabs from mainland China in late 2016 to have Dioxin-Like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (DL-PCBs) exceeding the action level. PCBs are highly carcinogenic chemical compounds applied in industrial products – however, they were banned by the US in 1970s.
Hong Kong therefore suspended imports from two aquaculture farms in Jiangsu Province linked to the PCB contaminated crabs.
Chan Tiu-ming, a businessman who runs local crab vendor New Sam Yung, told Commercial Radio on October 24 that Hong Kong’s food safety standard concerning hairy crabs was higher than that of mainland China, therefore some suppliers often would “export to Hong Kong via South Korea.”
Chan was issued a fixed penalty notice over selling importing and selling suspected crabs contaminated by PCBs linked to two samples found in 2016. He was acquitted in 2017.
HKFP has reached out to the FEHD.
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