SCMP Saturday, November 10, 2001

Hairy crabs safe to eat 'but keep up vigilance'


Hong Kong's winter delicacy, hairy crabs, were safe to eat but public vigilance and food monitoring should continue, authorities said yesterday.
All 27 samples of the freshwater crabs tested last week were found without traces of the antibiotics, chloramphenicol and oxytetracycline.
Dr Gloria Tam Lai-fun, Assistant Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene also said 10 of the samples contained no traces of steroids. Test results for steroids on the remaining 17 samples will be available next week.
The health alert followed a magazine report last week which said hairy crabs, mainly imported from Jiangsu province, had been contaminated with the antibiotics.
Dr Tam said people should remain alert when buying shellfish and when cooking them as crabs were a high-risk food that could easily be contaminated.
"Patronise known retail stores, make sure food on sale is in good hygienic condition. Crabs should be cleaned thoroughly - soak them in water 30 minutes before cooking, cook food thoroughly and eat it immediately," she said.
Hong Kong and mainland authorities would carry on their food-surveillance checks, she said, adding the investigation had turned up nothing so far to confirm the validity of the magazine report.
Dr Tam said the crab samples were tested by the Government Laboratory which used internationally accepted standards. Samples were collected from shops mentioned in the magazine report, and others from wholesalers, importers and other retailers.