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Tainted Chinese Eels Circulated in Korean Market

Posted December. 11, 2008 05:34,   


Twenty-three tons of Chinese eels tainted with carcinogens have been distributed on the Korean market, a report released by the Korean Food and Drug Administration said yesterday.

The food watchdog launched an investigation after fried eels were found to have triggered massive food poisoning last month at an elementary school in Yeongi, South Chungcheong Province.

The Dong-A Ilbo exclusively obtained the agency’s report on food products containing eel that were on the market from last year to October this year. According to the report, 24.6 tons of products were contaminated with malachite green and crystal violet, toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer.

The products laced with chemicals were imported from China by the Korean companies Keunbada and Daegang Fishery, and later distributed to restaurants and large discount stores under the labels “Best Marinated Roast Eel,” and “Frozen Freshwater Marinated Roast Eel.”

The Korean government ordered the two companies to recall the products after discovering banned chemicals in them in November last year and January this year. But only 9.1 percent or 1,638 kilograms of “Best Marinated Roast Eel” and 0.18 percent or 12 kilograms of “Frozen Freshwater Marinated Roast Eel” have been removed from the market.

This means the remaining 23 tons are in circulation. Considering that 200 grams of eel are needed to make one serving of marinated roast eel, 100,000 people are assumed to have eaten the tainted seafood.

Malachite green is used as a disinfectant at fish farms and is categorized as a carcinogen. Crystal violet used to dye cultured eels can cause vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea.

“It’s safe to say most of the tainted eel products were already consumed because they were put on the market a long time ago,” an official at the food watchdog said. “We will strengthen our inspection at the import stage.”

The report also said 10 percent of all imported eels are substandard.

Between last year and October this year, 2,250 tons of eels were imported from China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Ten percent or 225 tons, however, were returned or destroyed after toxic chemicals such as malachite green and nitrofuran metabolites, an antibiotic banned from food, were detected at the import stage.