Hong Kong authorities are investigating a batch of more than 4,500 hairy crabs, weighing about 730kg, imported without health certificates at the Shenzhen Bay Port on Sunday.
Importers have been required to apply for a permit since 2018, after the crabs, usually brought into the city from mainland China or Taiwan, were found to have almost double the accepted level of dioxin and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls the previous year.
The compounds are known to cause cancer and damage the reproductive and immune systems.
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“The hairy crabs concerned were seized by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) and have not entered the market. The CFS is tracing the source of the product and an investigation is ongoing,” a spokesman for the centre said in a statement on Monday.
The Food and Health Department and the Customs and Excise Department had been conducting joint operations since October to prevent illegal imports of hairy crabs of unknown origin, the statement said.
Importers with a Shell Fish (Hairy Crab) Permit are required to obtain health certificates for the crabs, and to keep the crustaceans refrigerated.
Under current law, anyone caught and charged with selling either locally produced or imported food unfit for human consumption could be subject to a maximum fine of HK$50,000 (US$6,451) and imprisonment for six months.
Anyone charged with smuggling faces a maximum fine of HK$2 million and up to seven years’ jail.
The crustaceans, a popular delicacy famed for their roe, are in season from late-September to November.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Call for tougher dioxin limits after carcinogen found in hairy crabs exported to Hong Kong
- Chinese officials save 276 horseshoe crabs from certain death, return them to the sea
- Better times see diners willing to shell out on hairy crabs again
This article Pincer operation: hairy crab import plan scuttled after 730kg of Hong Kong delicacy seized first appeared on South China Morning Post