On 23 August 2006, the media reported that the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan had found that live eels imported from Guangdong and Shanghai contained the pesticide endosulfan at levels exceeding their requirement.
What is endosulfan?
Endosulfan is a pesticide used in many countries worldwide. This pesticide is also permitted to be used in Hong Kong under the registration programme of the Pesticide Ordinance (Cap. 133). Endosulfan is mainly used to control insects in fruits and vegetables and it is normally not used in fish farming as some species are very sensitive to the effect of endosulfan.
Symptoms of endosulfan acute poisoning include hyperactivity and muscle spasm, while chronic toxicity may cause kidney damage. However, endosulfan is not known to be carcinogenic.
Based on international safety assessment of endosulfan in human at the levels of endosulfan detected in eels in Japan, an average adult would have to consume at least 13 kg of the eel in one go or four kg each day on a long-term basis before one would experience adverse health effects. There is no cause of alarm.
Actions taken by the CFS
The CFS had immediately contacted the relevant authority in Mainland China. The authority had confirmed that the concerned fish farms were not supplying live eels to Hong Kong. To ensure that eels do not contain endosulfan exceeding safety levels, the CFS will step up monitoring of live eels, including endosulfan levels, in Hong Kong.
Advice to local importers
- Importers who import live eels from Mainland China should only source them from registered farms and each consignment should be accompanied with a health certificate.
Advice to retailers and consumers
- Purchase aquatic products from reliable and reputable suppliers.
- Maintain a balanced diet in order to avoid excessive exposure to chemicals from a small range of food items.
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