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Shanghai getting tougher on blood clam ban

(Shanghai Daily)

14:31, July 24, 2013

Seafood vendors tempted to sell blood clams - a species of blood-red shellfish banned because some are tainted with hepatitis A - face heavy punishments under Shanghai food safety rules.

City food safety authorities are producing a list of food banned for production and sale, detailing punishments for those flouting the ban.

Vendors selling banned items under the counter face a fine of 10 times their illegal income and losing their business license, said the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration.

The list includes a complete ban on blood clams, balloon fish, and other foods subject to summer bans, officials said.

Blood clams - maohan in Chinese - were responsible for a hepatitis A outbreak in Shanghai in 1988, when more than 300,000 people were infected and 31 died.

The tainted blood clams came from Qidong in neighboring Jiangsu Province. There is a high prevalence of hepatitis A in some places where the clams are raised, with the water polluted by sewage.

The clams were banned in Shanghai after the 1988 outbreak.

According to Li Shuguang, a nutritionist from Fudan University's public health school, about 14 to 16 percent of people who eat blood clams may be infected with hepatitis A.

But despite this, blood clams are still considered a delicacy, with some local people willing to take the risk in order to enjoy the tasty mollusk.

Shanghai people like to eat the clams nearly raw by boiling them for a very short time. However, this cooking method won't kill the virus, officials warned.

Some stalls at wholesale markets sell blood clams and some restaurants also offer them.

Gu Zhenhua, vice director of Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, said although the government targets the illegal blood clam business, "it is most important to raise the awareness of the health risks among the public."

Gu said the banned food list will include all food being banned from production to sales in different section of the food supply chain and under the supervision of different government departments.

The list will be officially issued this year.

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