Taiwan to reinforce safety controls on shellfish imports

Taipei--To beef up control over shellfish imports to ensure what consumers eat is safe, Taiwan will begin next year to demand official endorsement from the exporting countries that guarantees shellfish are from safe waters and legal business entities, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced Wednesday.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, all shellfish imports must carry an official hygiene certificate issued by the exporting nation that proves the catches are from legal sea or other waters and are farmed or collected by legal entities, said Cheng Wei-chih (???), a senior technical specialist at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the ministry.

All importers and relevant business associations have been informed of the new measure, Cheng added, noting that after the new measure is enforced, the ministry will not accept any applications for inspection of imported shellfish that do not carry such endorsement.

According to FDA data, China sold around 2.8 million kilograms of shellfish to Taiwan in 2016, making it the largest source of such imports. It was followed by Japan with 1.48 million kg of shellfish, and the Philippines with 1.14 million kg.

The five most popular imported shellfish species were scallops, oysters, abalone, clams and mussels, the data shows.

FDA section chief Wu Tsung-hsi (???) pointed out that in recent years there have been several reports of shellfish poisoning. Being filter feeders, shellfish can accumulate toxins if they eat toxic microscopic algae in polluted waters, he said.

Humans can be poisoned by eating toxic shellfish, so it is important to monitor the waters from which shellfish are harvested, whether in the wild or captive, Wu said.

"Monitoring of the environment is a crucial part of food safety in terms of shellfish," he stressed.

In 2015, more than 100 tourists on Green Island developed food poisoning symptoms after consuming oysters imported from South Korea at a local restaurant. The oysters were later found to be infected with Norovirus, according to media reports.

Norovirus is one of several commonly seen culprits of shellfish poisoning, including hepatitis A virus, vibrio parahaemolyticus, staphylococcus aureus, and vibrio cholerae, Wu said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel