SCMP Saturday, November 3, 2001

Antibiotics in hairy crabs no risk to health, says official


The risk of eating hairy crabs contaminated with antibiotics remained low despite fears expressed in a magazine report, a Food and Environmental Hygiene official said yesterday.
Dr Mak Sin-ping, deputy director of Food and Environmental Hygiene (food and public health), said people usually had to take a low-level of antibiotics inappropriately for a long time before they became drug-resistant.
Hairy crabs are a popular delicacy in autumn, but Next Magazine claimed they contained traces of the antibiotics chloramphenicol and oxytetracycline.
Dr Mak said a person had to eat 900 crabs to obtain the level of one tablet of chloramphenicol and 140 crabs for the level of oxytetracycline in one tablet. But a complete course of antibiotics usually involved 28 tablets. "So we believe the health risk of eating crabs is very low," she said.
"There are always risks in any food . . . We would advise people to eat any particular food in moderation. Hairy crabs are high in cholesterol, so people have to make their own choice whether they should eat the seafood."
Dr Mak said the department had expressed its concern to the mainland - which provides most of the 300 tonnes of hairy crabs consumed in Hong Kong every year. Chloramphenicol is banned in Hong Kong and the use of oxytetracycline residual is controlled.
The department is collecting 30 hairy crabs from markets for inspection. The laboratory test for the first batch of samples will be obtained in a week and the tests will be completed in three weeks.
Shenzhen quarantine official Wang Yunsheng said there were guidelines in the city over the use of antibiotics in crabs and other seafood.
But a spokesman for a crab-breeding farm in Jiangsu province admitted antibiotics were common, especially when crabs became sick.