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Inspectors Find Carcinogens in Korean Fish

Posted October. 07, 2005 07:35,   


Two species of freshwater fish grown in Korea, trout and leather carp, was found to contain a carcinogen called malachite green. The substance has been detected in some imported seafood from China, but never in Korean seafood.

Suspicion over the safety of other farmed seafood is mounting, and related industries are fearing a backlash.

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries announced on October 6 that after inspecting 65 out of 296 trout farms nationwide from September 15 to October 3, it tracked down malachite green in 35 farms. It also examined two out of 140 leather carp farms countrywide and found one with fish contaminated with the substance.

The ministry put a stop to trucking out fish from 436 trout and leather carp farms nationwide on October 5.

Malachite green is a chemical used for sterilization and dyeing. It was found to cause cancer in the early 1990s and was banned from use in food.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to conduct a sampling inspection on trout and leather carp in the market, and will prohibit its distribution if malachite green is detected. The FDA asked related businesses to stop distribution and sales until the inspection results come out.

The ministry is planning to conduct large scale inspections with the National Fisheries Products Quality Inspection Service on seven kinds of freshwater fish, including loach, eel, catfish, carp, and snakehead to see if they contain malachite green by November 5.

As the carcinogen was identified in home-grown fish, the seafood sanitation process is suspected to contain serious defects.

Since the carcinogen was detected in Chinese seafood in July, the government has reiterated that Korean seafood is fine. The ministry claimed that malachite green has not been in use for 20 years in Korea. Its earlier inspection after August on seven species of farmed freshwater fish did not find traces of the substance.

Consumer groups criticized that the three inspections conducted from August 4 to September 4 were insufficient, as it was confined to some 10 farms out of 2,923 nationwide. The executive director of Consumer Korea, Kim Ja-hye, criticized the belated response of the government by saying, “When malachite green was found in Chinese fish, the government should have conducted inspections of every fish farm.”

Eun-Woo Lee libra@donga.com