November 7, 2003



Taiwan's Kaohsiung To Conduct Better Inspection on Tainted Seafood


Taiwan's Kaohsiung County commissioner yesterday promised to go to extraordinary lengths to protect consumers from food tainted with antibiotics.


Prices of seafood have fallen sharply in the past month after the EU rejected 30 tons of seafood exported from Taiwan because of excessive levels of antibiotics.


According to the Cabinet's Department of Health, eight batches of fish and shrimp exported to the EU were found to contain carcinogens such as chloramphenicol and toxic chemicals such as nitrofuran.


Consumers have also purchase less pork and chicken after excessive levels of sulfanilamide were found in samples taken from food factories in August.


Kaohsiung County Councilor Wang Jung-jen said residents' health had been threatened by the government's lax control on food quality.


"In Mituo township, which is renowned for its milk fish, fishermen have suffered from sagging sales," Wang said. "In Fengshan, we heard of ... sulfanilamide residue in chickens."


County government officials said that antibiotics have been used to prevent and treat disease in the fishery, livestock to poultry industries for decades. Antibiotics also promote growth, which ultimately improves animal productivity, they said.


"To ensure consumers' safety and farmers' profits, we'll strengthen farm inspections at the local level to prevent secret usage of prohibited drugs," Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing said.


Wang said the EU's action had seriously affected the local prices of aquatic products in the rural county. According to the Mituo Fishermen's Association, sales and prices of milk fish fall by one third.


Council of Agriculture (COA) officials said yesterday that the situation in the south remained controllable and a mechanism to support market prices was unnecessary.


"The falling prices could be attributed to consumers' reluctance, triggered by the EU's actions, rather than the quality of seafood," Lee Meng-chi, a Fisheries Agency official administrating aquaculture and inshore fishing affairs, told the Taipei Times.


The COA officials said that the priority was to improve the techniques used to test for antibiotic residues.


Exported seafood had tested negative for chloramphenicol and nitrofuran in Taiwan, but the EU's testing devices came up with a positive result.


EU laws prohibit seafood imports containing any amount of chloramphenicol and nitrofuran. Taiwan enacted similar standards in 2001.


When COA Chairman Lee Ching-lung visited southern Taiwan last week to call for farmers' to pay more attention to food safety, he announced to them Taiwan's upcoming move to purchase two or three sets of European laboratory analytical equipment.