AN expert suggesting people wash hairy crabs with a sodium bicarbonate solution to avoid pesticide residues has sparked a heated discussion online concerning food safety, with the best season for crabs just around the corner.
Modern Express, a Jiangsu-based newspaper, yesterday reported hairy crabs are likely to contain sodium pentachlorophenol, a pesticide "often" used in aquaculture to kill leeches and oncomelania snails.
Liu Hualing, deputy director of the physical and chemical inspection department of the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told the newspaper that hairy crabs may have sodium pentachlorophenol in their flesh.
An easy and effective way to get rid of such pesticide is to soak the crabs in a sodium bicarbonate solution, Liu told the newspaper.
Local crab experts say that's "groundless" because sodium pentachlorophenol has been banned from agricultural use for many years.
Fan Shoulin, secretary to the Shanghai Fisheries Trade Association, said the Ministry of Agriculture issued a fishery pesticide use standard in July 2007 that banned fishery pesticides that are highly poisonous or residual, or that cause cancer, birth defects or other mutations.
"Sodium pentachlorophenol is on the banned list. It shall not be used in fishery production," Fan told Shanghai Daily yesterday.
Once ingested or touched, it can be a strong irritant for people's skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
Crab farmers on Shanghai's Chongming Island said they never used any pesticide to kill trash fish.
Wang Wu, a crab professional with Shanghai Ocean University, said people should not panic about rumors.
"If sodium bicarbonate solutions can be so effective, why did the country bother to require farmers not to use the pesticide?" Wang said.
He said the rumor could hurt farmers and hairy crab sales.