After the Mid-Autumn Festival, here comes our long-awaited season for hairy crabs and chrysanthemum. A great variety of hairy crabs from different farms are readily available now. Common origins are Jiangsu (including Suzhou and Nanjing), Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, etc. According to the Mainland requirements, all hairy crabs supplied to Hong Kong and Macau should be imported from registered hairy crab farms on the Mainland. Despite their tempting taste, hairy crabs are rich in cholesterol and may harbour parasites and pathogens. So, here are the three don'ts for safe and healthy consumption of hairy crabs:
Don't Buy Dead Crabs
Photo 1: Choose live hairy crab with shiny shell.
Hairy crabs are rich in proteins. When they die, they will turn bad easily since proteins in their body will break down quickly allowing rapid bacterial growth. Hence, never buy dead hairy crabs. Choose beady-eyed, frisky live crabs with intact, shiny shells and no stink (photo 1). Check whether the hairy crabs for sale are properly kept in a fridge (photo 2). Purchase hairy crabs from reliable and hygienic shops.
Don't Eat Raw Crabs
Photo 2: Hairy crabs for sale must be properly kept in a fridge.
After purchase, hairy crabs should be handled as soon as possible. Crabs not for immediate cooking should be placed in a clean container with cover and stored in a fridge. Keep them separated from other food in the fridge to avoid cross-contamination. Before cooking hairy crabs, clean the shell, legs and claws thoroughly with brush and water (photo 3). As parasites and pathogens may be present, cook hairy crabs thoroughly and remove the internal organs completely before consumption. Never eat raw hairy crabs. Condiments such as salt, vinegar, wine and wasabi cannot kill bacteria or parasites that may be present.
Photo 3: Brush and wash hairy crab thoroughly before cooking.
As hairy crabs, particularly crab roes, are rich in cholesterol, you should maintain a balanced diet and do not overindulge. According to World Health Organization, an average adult is advised to limit daily cholesterol intake to 300mg. Since the amount of cholesterol contained in a hairy crab weighing about six taels is close to the daily limit*, it is advisable to eat only one or two crabs each time. Consumers should consider their own health status when eating hairy crabs. People with chronic diseases including those with heart diseases or high cholesterol are advised to avoid hairy crabs.
- List of registered Mainland hairy crab farms is available on the website of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China (Chinese version only): http://dzwjyjgs.aqsiq.gov.cn/fwdh/qymd/dwqymd/gnqymd/201009/t20100921_156058.htm
- Food Safety Focus – Hairy Crab (10.2009)
*Note: The edible portion for a hairy crab weighing 6 taels is about 100g given the edible portion is about 42 percent of the whole crab by weight. According to China Food Composition Table 2002, a mitten crab with an edible portion of 100g contains about 267mg of cholesterol.