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S.Korea says finds carcinogens in Chinese fish

August 31, 2005

By Cho Mee-young

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea officials said on Wednesday
they were stepping up inspections of imported Chinese
freshwater fish after finding cancer-causing chemicals in some
fish sent from the country.

The Korea Food & Drug Administration (KFDA) said in a
statement released on Tuesday it had found the carcinogens
malachite green and leucomalachite in some imported Chinese
carp available at a local wholesale market.

The KFDA said the fish were probably imported before August
23. The agency had placed a quarantine on Chinese and
Vietnamese eels since July after finding malachite green in eel
and eel-related products from those countries.

Malachite green, which has been found to be carcinogenic in
rats, has been widely used by fish farmers to kill parasites.
The chemical is banned in many countries, including China.

Earlier this month Hong Kong, which relies heavily on
mainland China for food supplies, found malachite green in eels
and other freshwater fish.

China told South Korean authorities that on August 12 it
had voluntarily suspended its eel exports, KFDA officials said.

KFDA said it had destroyed or shipped back the contaminated
eels and eel products it found and expanded its testing of
other kinds of fish imported from China.

FAMILY FISH FARMS TO BLAME

A Chinese Agriculture Ministry official said he did not
know about the recent problem with the carp in South Korea but
acknowledged there had been problems concerning malachite
green.

“We started an inspection campaign in early July after some
localities reported such cases. Normally big fish farms are
properly managed and do not have such problems,” Ma Weijun, an
official at the Fishery Division of China’s Ministry of
Agriculture, said by telephone.

“But as you know, there are millions of small family fish
farms across China and there are some problems and difficulties
in managing them. That’s why these cases have emerged,” Ma
said.

Ma added that authorities in China’s southern province of
Guangdong had been recalling tainted eels, a move which he said
showed their “responsible attitude.”

Singapore and Japan, which import huge amounts of Chinese
eels, have also stepped up checks for malachite green.

Tokyo has warned it will consider a ban if widespread
contamination is found, while Singapore will require all eels
and freshwater fish imported from China to undergo pre-export
tests.

Some biologists say there is no need to panic over the
detection of malachite green in fish because huge amounts of
contaminated eel and fish would have to be eaten before one
could develop a risk for cancer. But many also advise it is
best to play it safe.

On a separate matter, since 2000, South Korea’s health
authorities said they have sporadically found lead in some
Chinese crabs imported into the country, saying the crustaceans
were loaded with pellets in order to increase the weight of the
shipment.

(Additional reporting by Guo Shipeng in Beijing)




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