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Food Safety Focus (41st Issue, December 2009) – Food Incident Highlight

Nitrofurans in Abalone

Last month, the Department of Health in Taiwan found nitrofurans metabolites in fresh abalone imported from Mainland China . This news was reported in local newspapers, which raised some concerns on the safety issue of veterinary drug residues in food.

Nitrofurans are a group of antimicrobial agents used to treat bacterial infections in food animals. Their use has been banned in many countries, such as EU countries, the United States , Canada , and Australia . The main concern of nitrofurans in food is that these compounds may cause cancer in experimental animals. However, currently there is inadequate evidence that they can cause cancer in humans.

Nitrofurans and their metabolites are included in the routine food surveillance programme of the Centre for Food Safety (CFS). Between January and mid-November 2009, over two hundred aquatic products were sampled for analysis. Of which, two fish and one shrimp samples were found with low levels of nitrofurans metabolites. Based on the levels detected, usual consumption of the above products is unlikely to pose significant health risk. In view of the potential risk, the CFS advises the trade not to use nitrofurans.