Taipei, Nov. 3 (CNA) Two Taiwanese companies caught selling dioxin-contaminated Chinese mitten crabs, also known as hairy crabs, could face a total of more than NT$100 million (US$3.26 million) in fines, Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Saturday.
The crabs, imported from China by Chiao Ai Po International Enterprise Ltd. (喬艾舶國際企業有限公司) and Yueh Tzu International Trade Co., Ltd. (約諮國際貿易有限公司), were found to contain excessive amounts of dioxin and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyl (DL-PCB).
The test results were released by the FDA on Oct. 23, by which time the importers were found to have distributed the tainted crabs to markets in New Taipei and Yilan County before receiving prior permission, FDA Northern Center Deputy Director Cheng Wei-chih (鄭維智) said.
Based on the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, Chiao Ai Po could face a fine of NT$98.40 million and Yueh Tzu NT$18.40 million for selling the crabs illegally, Cheng said.
According to the FDA, the two companies together imported eight batches of hairy crabs from China this year weighing a total of 42,765 kilograms.
The live crabs were released by Customs to the importers for storage in their warehouses on condition that they would not sell them before safety tests were completed.
But three of the eight batches, weighing some 9,000 kg, eventually made their way to the markets before the results of the tests were available, Cheng said.
Following an agency investigation, Cheng said Chiao Ai Po was found to have already sold 7,844 kilograms of the hairy crabs through its distributors, while Yueh Tzu was discovered to have sold 1,468 kg of its products to a fish farm in Miaoli County.
Under FDA regulations, the safety limit for dioxin in food products is 3.5 picograms (one trillionth of a gram) per gram (pg/g) in wet weight and 6.5 pg/g for DL-PCB.
The examined samples from the three batches of imported crabs were found to contain as high as 27 pg/g, 25 pg/g, and 10.6 pg/g of dioxin and DL-PCB combined, respectively, according to the FDA.
Cheng again urged seafood businesses in Taiwan not to violate the law, reiterating that the government will not tolerate unscrupulous business practices.