Taipei, June 16 (CNA) The Department of Health (DOH ) has begun to check imported shellfish from South Korea batch by batch in the wake of a recent incident of suspected food poisoning from eating South Korea's raw oysters, a DOH official said Saturday.
"Since June 9, we have begun to check batch by batch oyster and shellfish imports from South Korea," Tsai Shu-chen, a section chief of DOH's Food and Drug Administration said.
But she said that so far only one batch of 100 kilograms of shellfish from South Korea is awaiting customs clearance and is being inspected.
Local health authorities have temporarily sealed imported oysters from South Korea, which amounted to 114,210 oysters in 7,204 boxes, Tsai said.
Since late May, 24 people have been reported to have experienced nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea after eating at Taipei restaurants in The Eatogether chain.
Earlier this month, dozens of similar cases were reported in Taichung by people who bought food at Eatogether restaurants in the central Taiwanese city.
Initial investigations showed that the problem was caused by eating uncooked oysters shipped from South Korea. Inspections at the three Eatogether restaurants in Taipei and those in Taichung also found sanitation problems in the kitchen, including a pileup of waste and inadequate refrigeration.
"The DOH has begun an epidemiological study on the case," Tsai said.
She also said that if the food poisoning is related to contaminated South Korean shellfish exported to the United States, the DOH is not ruling out the possibility of pulling South Korean shellfish from shelves.
Reports said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is urging retailers to pull South Korean shellfish from store shelves because of possible contamination with human wastes and norovirus.
The warning covers all fresh, frozen, canned, or processed mollusks from South Korea.
Taiwan is monitoring the situation, but has refrained from following suit.
(By Chen Chin-fang and Lilian Wu)