International Dioxin Developments

November 21, 2016 | Complex Torts & Product Liability | General Liability

Hong Kong Center for Food Safety Announces Latest Test Results on Hairy Crabs

The Centre for Food Safety (“CFS”) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in Hong Kong has stepped up surveillance on hairy crabs and has reported that the total level of dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”) in one sample taken at the retail level on November 3 exceeded the action level adopted by the CFS.

The CFS said that it is following up on the incident.

A CFS spokesman said, “The CFS has taken six hairy crab samples for testing, of which three were taken at the import level and another three at the retail level. The results showed that among the six samples, the total level of dioxins and dioxins-like PCBs in one sample exceeded the action level adopted by the CFS (i.e., 6.5 picograms (pg) toxic equivalent per gram (6.5 parts per trillion) of the food sample (wet weight)) and failed the test. The remaining five samples passed the test.”

According to the CFS, the sample was taken from a retailer, Shing Lung Hong Co. The CFS, when taking the sample, was told by the retailer that the sample had originated from a Mainland aquaculture farm.

The CFS said, however, that its initial investigation found that, when the sample was compared against one of two samples taken from the two aquaculture farms in Taihu where the import of hairy crabs to Hong Kong had previously been suspended, the proportions of the individual dioxins level of these two hairy crab samples were highly similar. The CFS said, therefore, that it had “reasonable doubts” that the unsatisfactory sample did not originate from the aquaculture farm claimed by the retailer. The CFS added that it immediately launched an investigation including following up the matter with the retailer and that it took appropriate action.

CFS Statement

In a statement, the CFS explained that the analysis of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs involves a “very complicated process with a high degree of precision” that includes “extraction, multiple clean-up steps, instrumental analysis, substantial data analysis and review of the findings when necessary.” Thus, it said, it normally takes about two to four weeks for analysis of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs.

The CFS said that, in response to the levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs of two hairy crab samples taken at the import level being found to exceed the action level previously adopted by the CFS, the CFS suspended the import into and sale within Hong Kong of hairy crabs raised at two aquaculture farms in Jiangsu Province as of November 1.

According to Section 54 of the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132), all food available for sale in Hong Kong, locally produced or imported, should be fit for human consumption. An offender is subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months upon conviction.

The CFS spokesman said, “Sources of human exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs include food intake, drinking water, air inhalation, and skin contact. Dietary intake is by far the most important exposure. Fatty foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and their products are the major dietary sources of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs.

“For aquatic animals, body parts which naturally have a higher content of fat may also contain a higher amount of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. For example, fish livers and brown meat (including the gonads, livers, and digestive glands) of crabs are known to usually contain higher amount of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs.”

The CFS acknowledged that, in general, some foods may contain dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in concentrations that will not cause acute adverse effects. It noted that the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives has established a provisional tolerable monthly intake (“PTMI”) of 70 pg/kg of body weight per month for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. The CFS said that occasional short-term exposure above the PTMI “would have no health consequences provided that the average intake over a long period is not exceeded.”

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NDMA and Other Chemicals Migrated Off Chemtura Site in Elmira, Report Says

A newspaper is reporting that consultants have determined that chemicals including N-Nitrosodimethylamine (“NDMA”) have migrated off the Chemtura Corporation site in Elmira, Ontario.


As we previously have discussed, Chemtura reportedly has installed new wells to meet a deadline of 2028 imposed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to clean up groundwater in Elmira allegedly polluted with NDMA.

The company is using a “pump and treat system” to remove NDMA from Elmira’s wells, which closed in 1989. Elmira’s drinking water now is supplied through a pipeline.

New Report

Now, a consultant’s report has found that chemicals including NDMA have migrated east of the Chemtura property.

Ramin Ansari, corporate remediation manager with Chemtura told a local paper, “If there’s a problem we will work on it and remediate it.” If NDMA and other chemicals have passed the site’s boundary, further testing would determine the extent of the migration, according to Mr. Ansari.

Learn more: “Chemtura Installs New Wells to Remove NDMA from Elmira, Ontario,” at

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Hawaii County Considering Bill to Curb Herbicide Use

A local councilwoman in Hawaii has introduced legislation that would restrict the ability to apply herbicides, according to a local news report.

The local law, known as Bill 245, would bar use of herbicides labeled “dangerous,” “warning,” “toxic to fish,” “toxic to fish and wildlife,” or that indicate a risk of groundwater contamination.

The news report said that the bill would apply to public but not to private property.

The bill suggests alternatives to the use of herbicides, including manual or mechanized removal of unwanted vegetation and the use of cover crops.

For further information, please contact James V. Aiosa, Paul V. Majkowski, Lawrence S. Han, or your regular Rivkin Radler attorney.

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