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HK Officials Head for Capital After Toxin Find

Two senior Hong Kong health officials were due to depart for Beijing today to discuss food safety issues with authorities there after a banned carcinogen was found in fish imported to the special administrative region from the mainland, according to a government press release yesterday.


The officials will discuss ways to enhance the safety of freshwater products supplied to Hong Kong following the discovery of malachite green in the past two days.


York Chow, Hong Kong secretary for health, welfare and food, said that health authorities had tested 29 freshwater fish samples for malachite green, banned from food products since 2002.


Of them, all four from local freshwater fish were clear but ten of 25 samples from fish imported from the mainland were found to contain the chemical.


An interdepartmental working group is now testing more samples to make a fuller assessment.


Chow said the Hong Kong government notified authorities on the mainland of the test results, who agreed to step up inspection of freshwater fish.


In July, malachite green was found in fish from central China's Hubei Province on sale in the neighboring province of Henan, resulting in calls for nationwide tests that could not be undertaken because the required reagent was not available.


"It can cause cancer, malformations and mutations," Gao Xuexiang, a Shanghai Fishery Office official, was quoted saying in July 15's Shanghai Daily after the municipality banned fish products from both the provinces involved.


"Some fish farmers still secretly use it to treat parasitic and fungal infections in fish because it is cheap," added Gao.


Malachite green (also called aniline green) has been used to treat parasites, fungal infections, and bacterial infections in fish and fish eggs. It is banned in aquaculture in many countries for being highly toxic.


(Xinhua News Agency August 22, 2005)

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